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Qatar's "triumphant" sports strategy


On the occasion of the 101st edition of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and before the Football World Cup, a close-up of Qatar, which has become, in the space of a few years, a key player in sport business.

By Mathieu Sauvajot

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  • DOSSIER - The Sport Business Observatory


Holder of a Master's degree from the Sorbonne, specializing in issues relating to Latin America,

Mathieu Sauvajot

first wrote articles dealing with the geopolitics and economy of this continent, before turn to the field of sport.

He is now an editor with the Observatoire du Sport Business.

On Sunday afternoon, the Paris Longchamp racecourse hosted the 101st edition of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

A legendary race where the elite of the equestrian world come together under the eyes of nearly a billion viewers.

However, when England's favorite 5-year-old Alpinista mare ridden by Britain's Luke Morris lifted the trophy, the panel behind the world champion galloper over the classic 2,400m distance and the jockey must have attracted many looks, garnet background and white inscriptions, proudly displaying the name of the state that funded the entire meeting, Qatar.

Today horse racing, tomorrow the football World Cup, this Gulf nation has become in the space of a few years a key player in sport business,

A long-term bet

A key player in world gas production, Qatar has been seeking to diversify for more than a decade now, and it is with this in mind that it does not shy away from any investment in order to become a heavyweight in the world of sport.

However, behind the rather caricatural image of wealthy Qatari families with unlimited budgets, there is actually a real long-term strategy.

First of all, it is a real tertiarization of the economy that has started over the last decade, when the sector represented only 28.56% of GDP in 2011 (~4.4 billion $), it weighed 44.71% (~ $65 billion) in 2021 and the trend should continue to increase over the next few years.

Admittedly, the expenses are colossal, when we know that the Qatari GDP was

order of $144 billion in 2021, we can only be perplexed when we observe the pharaonic expenditure made with the aim of organizing the World Cup at the end of November, i.e. $220 billion for "only" $20 billion in economic benefits expected.

By comparison, Russia spent $11.6 billion in 2018 and Brazil, which was heavily criticized at the time, spent $15 billion in 2014.

Estimates of the costs linked to the organization of the World Cup since 1994. Front Office Sports

Nevertheless, it is necessary to contextualize these expenses.

Qatar was starting from scratch and an initial investment was necessary, if only in terms of the construction of stadiums and hotels, in order to be able to receive the 1.2 million expected visitors in the best possible conditions, but it it is also a real long-term investment.

In the family of investments regularly singled out, PSG is also in a good position;

acquired for the sum of €70m in 2011, the club quickly became synonymous with excessiveness, like the record transfer of Neymar Jr for the sum of €220m, but this time the returns on investment were not long in coming.

Renewal of equipment supplier contracts at high prices, media overexposure to the point that the capital's club is now the 4th most followed in the world on social networks, not to mention the sale of international TV rights and the significant increase in ticketing revenue, the Qatari version of PSG has become a media and financial heavyweight in the space of a decade.

Valued at $3.2 billion by Forbes this year,

Investments that are more reasoned than disproportionate in the end, especially when we know that the value of the global sports market is estimated at $501.43 billion in 2022, and could well reach $707.84 billion by 2026. economic growth as spectacular as that of Qatar in short.

Sportwashing operation

Hosting the World Cup (November 20-December 18, 2022) is the final phase of Qatar's strategy.

First there were local investments with Aspetar, the world reference center in sports medicine, then Aspire, this academy whose ambition since 2004 is to train champions.

In 2006, Qatar hosted the Asian Games and the following year, the emirate became the title sponsor of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the reference in the world of horse racing... a real passion in the countries of Gulf.

Of course, the Qatari interest in sport business goes beyond financial considerations, and is part of a logic of

nation branding

, namely the fact of promoting one's country through sport and the positive values ​​associated with it, such as equality, solidarity and even openness to others, but that is where the whole paradox lies.

Admittedly, with the Arc de Triomphe, the creation of BeIn Sports, an ATP 250 tournament, a MotoGP stage, an F1 Grand Prix, not to mention PSG, Qatar is now known and recognized internationally.

But there is a double reverse to this medal of notoriety.

First of all, without shrinking from any sacrifice in view of the organization of the World Cup, the Western media and NGOs quickly pointed to the poor working conditions, the number of victims on the construction sites, the problems of discrimination .

And even if calls for a boycott multiply, the event will take place, supporters from all over the world will come.

Add to that the fact that it is both the most watched sporting event in the world, and above all the first in history to take place in the Middle East, and you will understand that the operation is already a success.

At first, the effectiveness of the Qatari strategy only sharpened a form of competition with Bahrain, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and then aroused the jealousy of the big and overpowering neighbour: Saudi Arabia.

The relationship between Riyadh and Doha has gone from indifference during the 2000s to tension with the famous BeOut Q to now be at the competition stage: obtaining an F1 Grand Prix, hosting the Super Cup Spain, organization of the Dakar, takeover of Newcastle United, creation of the controversial LIV (new golf circuit) … and now a bid for the 2030 World Cup in association with Greece and Egypt.

By succeeding Longines for the


of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Qatar has benefited not only from the international exposure of this race and the possibility of associating itself with a premium sport where the greatest owners are systematically part of of the elite, whether political (Godolfin, owned by the Maktoum family), financial (Wertheimer) or even both (Khalid Abdullah).

There was a time when some people dreamed that military and diplomatic conflicts could be settled through sport, and this dream has now come true… finally within the Gulf countries.

Source: lefigaro

All sports articles on 2022-10-02

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