With the Korean Peninsula on the brink of a war and negotiators in Cancun working late into the night to try to save the planet, David Cameron will today fly to Zurich for the start of intensive negotiations to help bring football home. If you ever needed an illustration of what Cameron means by a commercially minded foreign policy then securing the 2018 World Cup nomination is it.
At stake isn’t just the national prestige that comes with hosting such a major sporting event and knowing that you have out marketed or in some cases out bribed your competitors. As culturally significant as these are, Cameron hopes that by securing the winning bid UK PLC will reap important economic benefits.
To be fair to him, he’s not the only political leader visiting Zurich ahead of Thursday’s all important vote. President Putin is due to fly in on Wednesday and similar political representation is due from Spain, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands.
With an estimated 18m visitors travelling to a nation for a month-long event, it is clear to see the commercial potential of hosting the World Cup is enormous. From improved transport networks and construction to hospitality and accommodation, the tournament brings with it billions of pounds. No wonder the whole bidding process is mired in such controversy.
Here are some interesting statistics. In the 15 FIFA Fan Fest sites throughout Germany during the 2006 tournament, over 3.5m hot dogs and 4m litres of beer were consumed by over 18m visitors. Over 19,000 staff were employed as a direct result of FIFA’s Fan Fest sites as well as creating the opportunity for official shops to make millions of pounds in revenue through the sale of official licensed products.
It is estimated that if England’s bid is successful, then its 12 host cities can expect to produce anywhere between £150m-£250m in investment and revenue. This is an astonishing figure that, in a time of recession, seems too big an opportunity to be missed.
It would be great for Britain to host the World Cup. English’s fans would have no distance to travel home after England is knocked out of the tournament in the quarter finals by Germany on penalties. You might think this a little harsh but lets face it, the only major footballing country we’ve beaten in the last five years was Germany, and that was in a friendly. The likelihood of us actually winning the World Cup is slight.
My money though is on Russia securing 2018. I know that they have they weakest bid. Other than the UEFA Champions League final in Moscow in 2008, they haven’t hosted a high-level international sporting event in recent years. But Russia can muster many financial beneficiaries in times of need.
Like South Africa in 2010, it would be a major challenge for Russia and would lead to significant infrastructure improvements across the country. In this sense, England’s bid which relies heavily on existing stadium and infrastructure might just be too safe for FIFA.
What do you think? Do you think football is coming home?