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Why Big Business Can’t Get Enough of the World Cup, Scandal and All


Back home, a lot of these firms are quick to advertise their environmental, social and governance, or E.S.G., credentials, and market their commitment to causes akin to L.G.B.T.Q. rights. Yet even in an era where a company misstep in Qatar will be amplified on social media, the tournament is showing that firms are willing to risk a backlash that they bet will likely be forgiven (or forgotten) so long as the world is tuning in. The potential payoff is gigantic. Soccer is the world’s hottest sport and FIFA expects five billion people to observe the tournament (think the Super Bowl viewership times roughly 50). FIFA expects the event to generate about $4.7 billion. The organization has seemingly shaken off the scandal, and is awash in money and with all of the ability that goes with it.

Gianni Infantino, 52, a suave Swiss soccer executive, vowed to root out corruption and clean up FIFA’s tarnished image when he took over in 2016. He still pushes that message. Just before the tournament began, he robustly defended the choice to present the World Cup to Qatar and said his organization had been transformed. “Money simply doesn’t disappear anymore in FIFA,” he said. “Money goes where it has to go, and it goes into football development.” (Mr. Blatter, meanwhile, now claims Qatar shouldn’t have won. “It’s a rustic that’s too small,” he told a Swiss newspaper group.)

Qatar is estimated to have spent about $200 billion constructing high-speed rail, roads and stadiums for the World Cup. That’s greater than 15 times as much as Russia spent to host the 2018 tournament. Qatar, which sits atop one in every of the world’s biggest natural gas fields, earned about $32.2 billion from oil and gas revenues within the first half of 2022, a war-inflated 67 percent increase over the identical period last 12 months, in response to government data.

Qatar’s arrival on the largest sports stage has prolonged far beyond wooing FIFA. “The World Cup is changing every thing — it’s great for us,” Nasser al-Khelaifi, the top of Qatar Sports Investments, told me in 2013. “It’s a transformative tool.”

A 12 months after winning the best to host the tournament, Qatar acquired Paris St.-Germain, a cash-strapped, underperforming skilled club within the French capital, and turned it into a worldwide powerhouse. With Mr. al-Khelaifi as president, P.S.G. has bought sporting success, built a brand and now dominates the domestic league. Qatar has spent an estimated $1.45 billion to snap up a lot of superstar players for the club, including Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Brazil’s Neymar, and Kylian Mbappé, the 23-year-old French forward who signed a latest contract that may reportedly pay him $250 million over the subsequent three years.

Mr. Jaidah, the Qatari business executive, resents accusations that Doha bought its way into global sports with the World Cup and says he believes the attacks over human rights have backfired and united the country. To Westerners, he says, “it feels type of indecent, like why can we deserve that wealth and why can we keep it? Qataris think, ‘it’s our country, our wealth.’”

Meanwhile, the money-machine that’s FIFA is winning on and off the pitch. Infantino estimates that billions will tune in to the ultimate on Dec. 18, an unmissable marketing opportunity.

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