Qatar – FIFA Club World Cup and Beyond

By in Featured, Insights, Thought Pieces

The FIFA Club World Cup was held in Qatar in December 2019. One of several ‘warm up’ events to be held in Qatar prior to the big one in 2022.

Several questions have been asked of Qatar and it’s fair to say enthusiasm from traditional footballing nations for Qatar to host the next men’s FIFA World Cup has been thin on the ground.

Our experience there in December, however, was generally positive:

  • It feels a safe place to work and was easy to get around in Ubers even as a woman travelling alone
  • The stadiums are being built to high standards. The general seating bowl and the high-end Skyboxes at the Khalifa Stadium were very good
  • There were plenty of ‘gamesmakers’ around the stadium only too happy to offer directions and assistance
  • Disabled access seemed to be well considered throughout
  • Pre-match and during half-time there was an in-stadia animation team trying to gee-up the crowd and promote atmosphere. We even had a floodlights-off-sing-a-long to a Coldplay track whilst our free-handout wristbands lit up to illuminate the stadium
  • Food & Beverage service was more than acceptable throughout hotel and stadia
  • Hotels were good standard, a little pricey but not outrageous
  • Production capabilities locally are a little limited, but we were more than happy with the standard of branding produced by our chosen partner
  • For gifting, customs in Qatar is strict. Electrical good importation (anything with lithium batteries is very restricted) so think local when considering gifts
  • Event time transport was ok…probably the area that requires greatest improvement as there appears to be a lack of vehicle inventory on the ground in Qatar to meet the needs of sponsor/partner requirements. A tram link is being built to the stadiums to help the movement of fans

Areas for improvement?

Well, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: Booze. Yes, you can get a drink in a hotel bar…but it’s not decadent like Dubai where sitting around having a long liquid brunch is par for the course.  Rather, a couple of quiet G&Ts in the hotel bar is ok but it’s hard to imagine too much rowdiness being appreciated. Drinking in public is a no-no.

A key observation is that there is nowhere ‘local’ to go for legions of fans to gather, have a few beers and a singsong.  There are shopping malls & Starbucks (all no booze) but no town squares or little bistros to meet your mates and have a pre-match livener.

There is talk about beer being served in the official Fan Zones that will be constructed for 2022. That could work and give the event the more traditional heart and excitement that it needs.

But the thought of fans then stripping their shirts off and walking down the street to the stadium, beer can held aloft, singing, is just not foreseeable.  And trouble-making fans looking for a punch up definitely need not apply. Qatari tolerance goes so far, but our strong suspicion is when the hand of the law comes down you would know all about it.

However, we could see the World Cup attracting a far more family-based fan group as the great FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 did as it’s safe, sober-ish and very functional.

Very noticeable to us was the high volume of migrant labourers working in the many, many construction sites.  It’s obvious that the terms & conditions of their contracts are not positive: pay is extremely low and residential conditions appalling with two shift workers sharing a single bed in a packed dorm with no air con. It’s a slither away from slavery and is difficult to see.

Next steps for Partners:

  • Hotel inventory for this year’s CWC and 2022 needs to be secured ASAP
  • Ground transportation – get up the food chain to the main suppliers
  • Language staff – it’s time to meet possible candidates and get them trained up. In our experience there was a mismatch in expected standards of delivery and few local event staff with good English who can match the exacting requirements of global brand sponsor/partners. We will be really focusing our attentions here.
  • Hospitality – what will be the FIFA Club options and prices in stadia and where will this need to be supplemented by offsite venues

If you have any questions relating to sponsor activations in Qatar, please get in touch with Sam Bridgwater on sam@weareinfrared.com or+44 (0) 207 025 6181.

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