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What if Qatar lost the World Cup?

Andrew Woodward puts a balanced perspective on the scaremongering in which the international media appears to delight

Andrew Woodward is a chartered civil engineer with a contracting background.
Andrew Woodward is a chartered civil engineer with a contracting background.

Until recently it seemed as if not a day went by without the European press publishing articles about the Qatar World Cup and making complaints about the procurement of the rights to host the competition.

It is now nearly six years since Qatar secured the World Cup hosting rights, with just six years to go until December 2022. In that time we have seen allegations of bribery and corruption, arguments over summer versus winter tournaments, the FIFA president being banned from football and then the commencement of criminal investigations against FIFA personnel.

So with the Olympics and other news dominating the headlines, I thought all had gone quiet, until last week I was asked – what would the ramifications be if Qatar ever lost FIFA 2022?

Driving around the country, it is clear that work connected to World Cup 2022 is well underway. The biggest and most visible must be the work for the metro and railway projects, with their impressive elevated viaducts and gantry cranes dominating the skyline around both Lusail and Al Wakrah.

With its turn of speed through the University area, the Gantry crane of Red Line North Elevated has perhaps impressed me the most. Road projects appear equally to continue apace. Whilst arguably not a World Cup project, the North Orbital Highway project between Mesaieed and Al Khor shows great leaps of activity. A trip down the Salwa-Lusail Temporary Truck Route reveals extensive construction of bridges, tunnels and junctions at what appear to be every turn. And road procurement in general does not appear to be slowing, as evidenced by the recent award of the QR7.6 billion project to upgrade the coast road from Al Jamiaa Street to Al Khor.

Substantive work is now underway with many of the World Cup stadiums. Perhaps most visible is the replacement of the roof on the Khalifa Stadium, but looking left from an aircraft on a northbound departure from the Hamad International Airport gives a fantastic view of progress for what will be the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor too. News reports also state that enabling work has commenced on the new stadiums in Al Wakrah, Al Rayyan and Al Thumama, with contracts now awarded, or in the process of being awarded, for the main construction works.

But what would happen if the World Cup were to be taken away from Qatar?

In terms of infrastructure construction and development, arguably nothing will change. The commitment is already in place and the projects are underway. Yes, there appears to be significant pressure to reduce costs, evidenced by the change in procurement methods and attempts to trim the scope, but the change in the ‘world order’ arising from the seismic shifts in oil price is probably driving those pressures more, rather than concerns of specific World Cup costs.

The infrastructure work is also critical for the overall development of the country and not just for the World Cup. Without the World Cup, Qatar still needs its roads and railways to remain an international centre for business and trade. In terms of business and prestige, it would be a significant loss if the world Cup were to be taken away. Many contracts for sponsorship, hospitality, delivery and support are no doubt in the process of negotiation and the termination of such agreements would be a nightmare for both the current organisers and any replacement host country.

With the end of the summer and the Olympics, the European press will no doubt soon recommence calls for Qatar to be stripped of the tournament. If it was to lose the World Cup, I doubt Qatar would bat an eyelid as it is a strong and proud nation keen to make a good impression on the world stage.

It would however be a shame to see the event taken away, given the progress the country has made in building its infrastructure and the physical efforts underway by teams of people right now. In winning the rights to host the World Cup, Qatar was successful in an international competition up against international players, playing by the rules set and implemented by FIFA. Should FIFA have broken its rules, it’s for the Swiss and US courts to decide, not some partisan section of the European press.

Andrew Woodard is executive director at Quantum Global Solutions, a contractual, commercial and forensic planning consultancy in Qatar.

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