Football fever: Should these Asean countries host the 2034 FIFA World Cup?
THE 2018 FIFA WORLD CUP IN RUSSIA is well underway and has been delightful to watch so far what with all the event’s surprising wins and shocking losses. Likely, this edition could go down in history as one of the more interesting ones.
Witnessed by the world, the games have piqued the interest of a handful of Asean countries – Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam – that may submit a bid to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup. Malaysia, too, wants in on it.
Former Football Federation of Malaysia (FAM) president Tengku Abdullah said Asean members Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore had already expressed interest in submitting a joint bid for the 2034 World Cup, reported ESPN.
Should any of the countries be successful, Malaysia might have the opportunity to co-host, provided the FAM and the government are agreeable.
Co-hosting is neither new to FIFA nor the Southeast Asian countries gunning for it.
The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be co-hosted by the US, Mexico, and Canada. The Asian Cup in 2017 was co-hosted by Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand.
Malaysia also hosted the 1998 Commonwealth Games, officially known as the XVI Commonwealth Games, the first Asian country to do so, as well as the 2017 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games)
Historically, only two other Asian countries have co-hosted the FIFA World Cup. In 2002, the games were split between Japan and South Korea, the first co-hosted FIFA World Cup ever, with the final match held in Japan.
But even at that time, Japan and South Korea, both highly developed and granted first world status, were no strangers to hosting events of such an international scale. Both countries have hosted the Olympics in the past, with the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics being the most recent.
Let’s not forget the 2020 Summer Olympics in the pipeline.
Why host or co-host?
Firstly, Asean is a football-loving part of the world, thanks to the English Premier League.
Hosting an event of that scope would make for a giant advertising and marketing opportunity for the country/countries involved. It’ll put the said country on the map and boost tourism numbers and receipts.
Russia is hoping for at least 1.5 million tourists during the event, which could add US$2 billion to the country’s economy. Still, there’s no long-term guarantee.
The common misconception is that a country’s economic situation will improve by hosting the tournament.
“The money spent on hosting the tournament, both the direct cost of setting up the infrastructure (stadiums and security for example) and the opportunity costs (money spent on hosting the tournament that could be used to boost the economy elsewhere) cancel out the revenue,” sportslens wrote.
For example, the US lost US$9.6 billion from hosting the World Cup in 1994, Germany broke even after the World Cup in 2006, and South Africa is said to be in the red after the World Cup in 2010.
For a developing country like South Africa, it may not necessarily benefit locals in the long run as it’ll take decades for tourism dollars to repay the debts.
Is it too ambitious?
It’ll be interesting to see how Southeast Asian countries (save for Indonesia) that have never qualified for the World Cup attempt to host it.
Certainly, the confidence comes from having hosted regional-level games. Perhaps Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia are looking at the strength in numbers.
However, even neighboring countries Japan and South Korea had to deal with organizational and logistical problems when they hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup. That’s just the one that was split between two countries. What more a three-way split? Or four?
Furthermore, will these developing Asean countries have the infrastructure by then?
Russia spent a whopping total of US$11.8 billion on just infrastructure and facilities alone, and a chunk of the budget was invested in either renovating or building a handful of new stadiums. Specifically, FIFA-approved stadiums, in accordance with FIFA regulations.
After the curtains close on the games, a surplus of expensive venues can only go one way or the other: become white elephants, or develop the sporting culture.
And although Southeast Asia has long been considered a top travel destination, collectively welcoming 104.6 million international arrivals in 2015 with Thailand being the highest and Vietnam the lowest, the rising debt levels are weighing on the countries like Thailand and Malaysia.
Meanwhile, the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is said to have a ripple effect on long-haul summer bookings into Thailand half a world away.
The country has seen fewer bookings as travelers opt to stay home to watch the game.
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Source: Travels travelwireasia.com