soccer field

The cost of hosting FIFA

July 14, 2023

History of the Current World Cup and its Current Impact

The sport of soccer has captivated billions throughout the 20th and 21st century, with its popularity continuing to grow through instrumental events such as the World Cup. The first World Cup was held in 1930 and has soared in viewership ever since. The 2018 World Cup was viewed by more than 3.5 billion people—tantamount to half the world’s population above the age of four. The first World Cup took place in Montevideo, Uruguay in which the final match pitted Uruguay against Argentina. The home team won by a score of 4 – 2. The popularity of the football tournament in the 1924 Olympics, where 40,000 spectators watched, was a prelude to the attention commanded by the most recent World Cup games. These games have widespread audiences that galvanize viewers to make allegiances either for their home country, parents’ country of origin, or favourite player. The World Cup has, is, and will continue to be a symbol of high-level global competition that is unlike any other sporting event in the world.

Infrastructure in Qatar to host FIFA

The 2022 World Cup was the first time that a Middle Eastern country hosted the prestigious games. Fascinatingly enough, it was also the smallest country ever to host the FIFA final. Qatar addressed a number of obstacles in preparing to host the games including a labour shortage, lack of core sporting and transportation infrastructure, and shrinking time period before the games. By many accounts, the games were the most expensive in FIFA’s history. Qatar is estimated to have spent $220 billion, which is 15 times more expensive than the Russian World Cup in 2018.  

The breakdown of infrastructure expenses were the most fascinating from the games. Between $6 to $10 billion was estimated to have been spent to construct the football stadiums. Six of those stadiums held a capacity for around 45,000 people, one held a capacity of approximately 69,000 people, and the stadium in which the World Cup final was played had a capacity for 89,000 people. One of the most interesting details about the construction of some of the sporting infrastructure was the intersection with sustainability. One of the largest stadiums for the Qatar World Cup was actually built using dozens of shipping containers and modular steel in order for the stadium to be fully demountable and reused following the games. 80% of the waste from stadiums was recycled accounting for 2,000 tonnes of waste being recycled or composted. Qatari officials have stated as well that some stadiums will be used by existing soccer clubs to host national team games and be transformed into a community space with a hotel, mall and medicine clinic for sports. The government of Qatar has also revealed that these stadiums will be used to host other tournaments like the Asian Cup and Asian Games. 

Canada’s Infrastructure

In 2026, Canada will jointly host the World Cup along with Mexico and the United States. The Canadian cities of Vancouver and Toronto will host the prestigious matches for the country. In Toronto, the games will be held at BMO Field in downtown Toronto minutes from the CN Tower and in Vancouver the iconic BC Place will host the western contingent of matches. BMO Field will have the capacity to hold approximately 45,000 visitors for the World Cup, out of which around 17,000 seats will be added for the games. The City of Toronto will additionally be expanding their sporting facilities to accommodate the respective teams and create a FIFA Fan Zone that mirrors the same size and scope of the Qatari games. The cost of Toronto hosting the World Cup is estimated to be $300 million CAD. BC Place has the capacity to host 54,500 spectators (excluding suites and lounges) with an estimated cost of hosting those games at approximately $260 million CAD, including the infrastructure for their Fan Zone, enhanced transportation, and upgrades to training facilities. Both cities have the ideal transportation, sporting, and social infrastructure to adequately host the games while showcasing the vibrancy and culture of the nation. The City of Toronto estimates that hosting the World Cup will create more than 3,000 jobs, bring in more than 290,000 spectators to the city, and early estimates say generate more than $300 million in GDP for Toronto. Rather than viewing the games from the standpoint of GDP, the City of Vancouver has taken a different approach to estimate the impact of the games. They assess that hosting the games will bring in more than $1 billion in new revenue to the provincial tourism sector for the tournament and in the five years following. 

Norton Rose Fulbright Canada will play an integral role in making the upcoming games a success. As an important partner for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, we have a history of providing exceptional services to our clients – whether it be drafting the project agreements for the construction of the Sea-to-Sky Highway or coordinating the implementation and operation of the extension of the Metro Vancouver Light Rail Transit Line, the Canada Line. We hope to assist prospective and current clients with any P3 or real estate transaction they may have in anticipation of the games. Our offices have dealt with these multi-billion dollar experiences before and we hope to continue this trend in the near future for the World Cup.

Soccer is becoming one of the most popular sports in Canada and Canadians from coast-to-coast are increasingly excited to co-host the 2026 World Cup. This global event will allow citizens and spectators to recognize the power of sports to mesmerize audiences, alleviate the superficial doldrums of our everyday lives, and come together to celebrate achievements. 

Norton Rose Fulbright looks forward to supporting our current and prospective clients with this monumental event.