Qatar can transform into a global sports hub
Qatar can’t let its legacy of hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup go to waste. If it wants to become the epicentre of international sport, it must keep up its momentum and host the 2025 Rugby League World Cup.
Qatar’s chance to host the event came a few months ago when France withdrew as the host due to financial concerns. However, Qatar now finds itself competing with New Zealand, South Africa, and Fiji. While these nations might be considered favourites, in my eyes, Qatar should be first choice.
While delivering stadium and infrastructure projects for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, I was struck by Qatar’s ability to deliver a global spectacle from virtually nothing. The atmosphere was electric, and their successful bid blazed a trail for other countries who haven’t had the chance to host the competition before.
The Middle East has shown the world that it can host world-leading sporting events without having to rely on heritage and world class soccer teams
Qatar recognised that a successful tournament encompasses not only the matches themselves but also state-of-the-art infrastructure that will last for decades beyond the event.
New roads, accommodation, airports, and a rapid metro line were built to meet the demands of 3.4 million spectators. Seven unique FWC stadiums and the Lusail Stadium, which hosted the final, achieved a five-star sustainability rating – demonstrating Qatar’s appetite for innovation. A change to traditional scheduling meant that, for the first time ever, fans could see multiple games in a single day.
As a rule, any sports event of such magnitude does not go without challenges. Many examples from previous major tournaments can be cited, whether it’s delayed construction projects, insufficient infrastructure, or a lack of contingency planning.
Qatar’s detailed planning and innovative approach has prevented any of these mishaps from happening at the FIFA World Cup. And it wouldn’t at a Rugby League World Cup.
The sports industry in the Middle East is expected to grow by 8.7 per cent by 2026, surpassing the global projection of 3.3 per cent. This growth is no doubt bolstered by the forthcoming under-19s Asian Cup and 2030 Asian Games.
But the region should not become complacent. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE has shown the world that anything is possible – whether that is the biggest, the fastest, or the tallest. And it must look ahead of the curve to host emerging events such as e-sports and LIV Golf, as well as historic sports such as rugby, cricket, and baseball.
Creating new infrastructure projects brings several financial benefits, the most obvious being ad revenue and TV licensing. But the tourism opportunities of hosting the Rugby League World Cup are huge. The event would create an influx of new, high-spend tourists, attracting fans from the UK and Australia who would otherwise not visit the Middle East. Local businesses could capitalise on other experiences with desert safaris, shopping experiences, and other tourism excursions.
The Middle East has shown the world that it can host world-leading sporting events without having to rely on heritage and world class soccer teams. But there is still work to be done to help Qatar become a global sporting hub. The next step on that journey is its bid for the 2025 Rugby League World Cup.
* The writer is a global executive best known for his work at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar