Qatar, the hosts for the 2022 Fifa World Cup, has started feeling the heat of high costs involved in organizing he quadrennial soccer event. The nation has slashed the 2022 World Cup budget by 40-50 per cent. The number of the stadiums to stage the World Cup games is also likely to be reduced from 12 to 8.
“We wanted to ensure there is financial responsibility in relation to the infrastructure relating to the World Cup,” Al Thawadi, secretary general of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup supreme committee for delivery and legacy, is quoted as saying. “That’s why we had set an initial budget early on and made a commitment towards reducing it as the market became clearer, as the project became clearer, as we define the scope.”
Thawadi’s committee now expects tournament infrastructure will cost between $8 billion and $10 billion, with most of the money earmarked for stadiums and training grounds. Qatar, which had planned for 12 stadiums in its original bid, is now proposing eight; the minimum required by FIFA. It is building seven new venues and upgrading an existing stadium, says a businessdayonline report.
“FIFA has not yet agreed on the final number and we are in discussions with them to finalize the final number of stadiums that will fit the operating model of Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup,” said Al Thawadi. “We are moving ahead with eight stadiums and in case discussions go on there might be an extra stadium to be developed,” he added.
The news comes as work began on the Lusail Stadium, the 80,000-seater venue which is scheduled to host the 2022 World Cup final.
The venue, located around 20 kilometre north of capital city Doha, is also due to stage the opening match of the tournament. Officials have expressed their confidence that it will be completed by 2020.
It has been claimed the look of the stadium, designed by British architects Foster and Partners, will be unveiled later this year. One of the main criticisms levelled at Qatar 2022 has centered on the treatment of migrant workers who are helping construct the stadiums.
Qatar is feeling the pinch financially due to a slump in world oil and gas prices. It has been reining in government spending in other areas, and along with other countries in the Gulf, will introduce a 5% sales tax in 2018. The gas-rich state is better protected than some of its neighbors thanks to its huge sovereign wealth fund. Though Al Thawadi said the reduction in the 2022 budget was not related to lower oil and gas revenues. “It’s been a fiscal responsibility and not as a result of oil prices going down. It’s a commitment we’ve made from day one,” he said.
Russia, which is hosting the 2018 tournament, has increased spending on the World Cup by $326 million, state media reported last month, bringing the cost of hosting that event to more than $10 billion. Still, that’s $5 billion less than the cost of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and a fraction of the $50 billion Russia reportedly spent hosting the Sochi Winter Olympics.
If FIFA accepts Qatar’s proposal, the World Cup will be played in the fewest stadiums since Argentina hosted the tournament in 1978. Six stadiums were used then.
Al Thawadi added that construction work was well underway. “Plans are moving ahead pretty well. In terms of overall infrastructure as well… plans are going ahead on schedule.”
Qatar has faced growing pressure over its hosting of the World Cup in relation to allegations over the role of former top football official Mohammed bin Hammam played in securing the bid. A former employee of the Qatar bid team had alleged that several African officials were paid $1.5m by Qatar. She retracted her claims, but later said she was coerced to do so by Qatari bid officials. More suspicions emerged in March 2014 when it was discovered that disgraced former CONCACAF president Jack Warner and his family were paid almost $2 million from a firm linked to Qatar’s successful campaign. The FBI is investigating Warner and his alleged links to the Qatari bid.
Five of FIFA’s six primary sponsors, Sony, Adidas, Visa, Hyundai and Coca-Cola, have called upon FIFA to investigate the claims. The Sunday Times published bribery allegations based on a leak of millions of secret documents. FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce has gone on record stating he would support a re-vote to find a new host if the corruption allegations are proven. FIFA completed a lengthy investigation into these allegations and a report cleared Qatar of any wrongdoing.
Despite the claims, the Qataris insist that the corruption allegations are being driven by envy and mistrust while Sepp Blatter said it is fueled by racism in the British media.