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Expert Reaction: Hosting the FIFA World Cup 2018

Posted on 18 June 2018

As England begin their FIFA World Cup tournament in Russia, Dr Alex Gillett and Dr Kevin Tennent from the University of York's Management School reflect on why so many nations are eager to host these sporting mega-events:

What are the benefits of hosting a World Cup?

“The World Cup 2018 is in the spotlight for several reasons, but first and foremost, the FIFA World Cup is arguably the greatest sporting event in the world, certainly the most popular.  FIFA has more members (211) than the United Nations (193), showing its genuinely global reach. 

“The reasons for hosting a world cup are similar to those of other ‘mega-events’ projects.  For example, engineers can build exciting new stadiums and use new technologies, local economic boosters make claims for inward investment, tourist spending and the multiplier effects that accumulate.  Politicians too are often quick to jump on a sport mega event bandwagon. 

“The current World Cup in Russia seems no different.  Whether or not economic gains are really made, or trickle down to local economies, is a well-worn argument. Certainly the new stadium at St Petersburg is a headline grabbing investment, its flying saucer appearance also adding an aesthetic dimension to the tournament.  Re-using the 2014 Sochi stadium also demonstrates some useful built legacy from previous stadium investment. 

Political value

“In reality, however, do global sporting events, such as the World Cup, have more political and aesthetic value than economic? Our research on England's hosting of the World Cup in 1966 suggests that perhaps they do.  For Russia, more than economic investment, good PR could be just the boost the nation's image needs after an intense year of negative headlines, both inside and outside of sport. 

“The 2018 World Cup is an opportunity for Russia and its leadership to show the world what it can do.  Against the backdrop of Sochi Winter Olympics, and also the 2018 ‘Olympic Athletes of Russia’ controversy, this year’s FIFA World Cup will no doubt face the scrutiny of the world’s media and sport’s governing bodies. 

“But, for the average or casual fan, we can expect business as usual and hopefully an exciting and well organised tournament.” 

For more on this topic, read Dr Gillett and Dr Tennent's research paper on the legacy of the 1966 World Cup in the Project Management Journal.  The researchers also feature on The Story of Things podcast, episode two:

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