The Blog

Is The FIFA 2014 World Cup Just One Big Circus?

The FIFA mission statement commits the international footballing body to taking "even greater responsibility to reach out and touch the world, using football as a symbol of hope and integration."

The FIFA mission statement commits the international footballing body to taking "even greater responsibility to reach out and touch the world, using football as a symbol of hope and integration."

This is a bold claim, and one that FIFA seems to be going the wrong way about achieving if the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is any example.

The death of a construction worker on one of the stadium sites last week was just the latest tragedy in a long-line of accidents and missed deadlines as the South American country prepares to host the tournament in June. Arguably, schedules could have been kept, not to mention lives saved if Brazil had allocated a bigger budget or had more time

Amidst this unfolding fiasco, it's time to ask: is it fair for a country to be awarded the rights to play host if they can't prove - to FIFA and the rest of the world, that they've delivered similar major infrastructure projects, of a comparable scale, to an immovable deadline? Is it fair that FIFA watches costs escalate and cities plough in more and more money to win the rights to host the World Cup, judging each against the same benchmark, knowing full well not all cities and countries have the same means.

Once a host city or country has successfully won the rights to hold a major event, and the champagne fuelled hangover clears, the reality of the scale their bid promised dawns. This is when committees, more committees and then committees to oversee committees form, which can turn the management of a large-scale event into a bit of a circus. These teams rapidly acquire staff like a storm surging forwards, wiping out all common sense in its wake. Although events are temporary, these committees seem insistent on treating them and staffing them like permanent corporate behemoths.

There are millions of events that happen every year all over the world, which by and large are delivered within their means. But the waste, pain and frustration often involved in staging major events like the World Cup can be staggering, despite the fact that staging a sporting event should really be quite straightforward.

Countries hosting major sporting events can spend a fortune, yet the sport itself doesn't change: the rules of football, for example, don't change, no matter how elaborate the stadium's architecture. Once a certain standard of facilitation and presentation is reached, athletes at the pinnacle of their sport can compete.

With each major tournament or event trying to outshine the last, the cost to the host spirals, and the process amasses an ever-larger travelling circus of agencies, organisations and consultants. But this needn't be the case.

Major events could bring much greater economic benefits if they weren't so expensive to stage. If rights holders, such as FIFA, really want to 'reach out and touch the world' there needs to be more reaching, more touching and considerably more effort.

Simply demanding more and more of cities, with strict, inflexible, high and mighty demands is easy, and doesn't take much effort. However, such demands are becoming increasingly unrealistic and difficult to meet. Awarding organisations, like FIFA should be held more accountable. If the rights holders select an economically underdeveloped country to host their event, then they need to take responsibility for supporting them in making it happen.

I propose that potential host cities or countries should be shortlisted predominantly on how their ideas demonstrate ways in which sport could reach out and touch the lives of more people in their region.

Once shortlisted, the rights holders could then work with the hosts to design and develop major events that work in the context of that region, and which are deliverable with the experience, expertise and finance (realistically) available to that city or country. Yes, this might mean redesigning how the events are staged and facilitated. Yes, this might mean the sport is scheduled differently. Yes, this might mean changing expectations and putting aside ego. Yes, this might mean these events look different in different locations. But events would still go ahead in style, and next time, perhaps, without the human cost seen in Brazil.

I am not saying there shouldn't be redevelopment, new architecture or money spent, merely that major events meet a minimum requirement rather than the current craziness for excess, and are delivered within the realistic means of the host. Real innovation often comes from creativity and solving problems rather than simply throwing money at a situation.

If a region doesn't have the money, demand less, if a region doesn't have the experience or culture to deliver, award them an event for a later date giving them more time to learn and deliver within their means, reducing the chances of risk, injury or tragedy.

Of course rights holders will claim this isn't their role, as they merely make award the rights to a host, and that the staging of event is then the host's responsibility. They would also argue that they don't have the resources. I would argue differently. It is the rights holder that creates the rules and governs; leadership starts at the top. As for the resource issue - getting the right people and using money more effectively solves that. Industries around the world are having to rethink and adapt as they move into different economies and regions. Sport should be no different.