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Hosting the World Cup Pays Off Only if You Have Existing Stadiums and a Winning Team Says Holy Cross Professor

Brookings Institute
December 8th, 2022 by 
Victor Matheson, professor of economics. Photo by Tom Rettig

The World Cup is one of the biggest sporting events in the world, but it’s also a big economic event. Which begs the question: Does hosting the World Cup pay off?

Victor Matheson, a professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross and renowned expert on sports economics, recently spoke with Brookings Institute’s “Dollar and Sense” podcast about the economic implications for a country hosting the World Cup.

Matheson, who researched the issue in a recent study,  “The Economics of the World Cup,” discussed the costs and benefits for the host country, whether sports stadiums generate economic activity, the impact on tourism and FIFA’s role in organizing the event.

According to Matheson, hosting an event like the World Cup makes economic sense only if a country already has the stadiums and a team that might actually win, otherwise not so much.

“In a place like the United States, the cost of hosting the World Cup is actually not that bad at all, said Matheson. 

“When we were bidding against Qatar for this World Cup, the United States put forward a list of 79 stadiums in the United States that were already built, already up and ready that could be available for a World Cup match with two weeks’ notice. Qatar had one stadium available at that point. They had to build seven new ones since that time. And so, that involves costs of billions of dollars just for stadiums in Qatar, in a way in the United States or Canada it would have cost nothing. Now, on top of this, of course, we’ve got all that other stuff that goes along with hosting somewhere between 100,000, 200,000 and a million fans coming in for this. And, of course, the United States is well built for that as well. Qatar, not so much.”

To listen to the segment, go to Brookings.edu.

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