The prestigious FIFA World Cup has been expanded from a 32 team tournament to a 48 team tournament. Aside from the obvious political motives from the newly elected president Infantino, what are the implications? From a financial stand point, it’s clear that FIFA is going to grow the tournaments total revenue with about 20% – clocking on a estimated €6.5 billion and an increase of €606 million in marketing revenue.
Eyes on the East
To be frank, all evidence points to wanting to conquer the Chinese and Asian market. While football is a massive commercial succes in Asia – the top European teams have done summer tours in Asia for decades now, and many European clubs have financial ties to Asian investors – the Asian national teams have never reached a semi-final in the male football World Cup. Since 2015, Chinese President Xi has launced a new plan for China to develop a sports culture. One of the sports they want to focus on is… Football.
The governmental blessing was the start of a spending drift in Chinese club football. It started with older players like Drogba and Anelka, but now it has begun to attract players who are considered to be in their ‘prime’ (Witsel, Pellè, ao.). The Chinese clubs need those players in order to attract crowds, but they need the European clubs to attract the know-how of youth development and give the star players the possibility to play in the most competitive competitions.
Xi’s goals with football is clear: he wants to host a World Cup, he wants China to be competitive with the Mannshaft or the Seleçao. Infantino’s bet on the Chinese market is perfectly in line with the new trend in world football. But the verdict is still out. Will it awaken a sleeping giant with a population of 1.3 billion, or will the turn-off from the ‘old’ European market put the whole plan in ruins? In no uncertain terms, Infantino’s legacy is now bound with Xi’s resolve to put China on the world stage.