Published by The Peninsula on how an emirate of the Gulf region does have a vision but how after it has since the early 1990s heavily invested in promoting its image through sports, it is getting ready to facing other challenges. Not only has it fought hard to win support for its 2022 World Cup hosting, it is now trying to further use its soft power to perhaps conquer the world. But would Qatar’s sports sector eying post-2022 horizon keep it alive and well? And if Qatar can silence critics with a strong tournament, an Olympic bid could be next; why not?

Qatar’s sports sector eyes post-2022 horizon

Doha: Interest around development of sports in Qatar has soared globally in the runup to FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and the sector has become the focus of global investors. With $6.5bn budgeted for the event, what opportunities does the wealthiest Gulf state offer after the much-awaited football celebration? 

The Investment Promotion Agency Qatar (IPA Qatar) delves into the growth prospects of the sports industry and showcases the multi-sectoral opportunities on offer.
Qatar’s Booming Sports Industry.

Over the last decade, the Middle East has hosted several key tournaments — Asian Football Confederation Cup, World Men’s Handball Championship and IAAF World Athletics Championships among others. This has helped establish the region as a global sporting destination.  A PwC survey shows that the sports industry in the Middle East is expected to grow 8.7 percent in three to five years, while the expected growth of global sports business is not expected to exceed 3 percent in the same period. With Qatar hosting more than 50 international events in 2021, the survey points out that the sports industry in the Middle East is expected to fully recover from the pandemic in 2022. 

The region’s sports industry has untapped potential. The first FIFA World Cup to be held in the Arab region is a catalysing force for unlocking that potential and “propelling the beautiful game”.  Qatar has pursued a bold development strategy and is at the vanguard of countries with advanced sports infrastructure. In the “Ranking of Sports Cities 2020” by Burson Cohn & Wolfe, which evaluates the performance of cities in hosting sporting events based on digital landscape analysis, sports media, and international federations surveys, Doha has made it to the top 50 global cities and the first in the Arab World. Similarly, the “Global Sports Impact (GSI) Nations Index” by the Sports Market Intelligence’s company Sportcal ranked Qatar first in GCC and among the top 20 worldwide. 

Ripple Effect 

With an average growth of 4.5 percent over 11 years, between 2010 to 2020, Qatar’s GDP has grown steadily since it was awarded the right to host the World Cup in 2010, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). With economic diversification, the sports industry is poised for further growth. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has identified 83 commercial and investment opportunities for the private sector until 2023, spanning event management and promotion, sport development, venue construction, sporting goods and equipment, sports commercialisation, sports tourism, and venue operations. 

Esports Adds Momentum 

While the pandemic has challenged economies, it has spotlighted the indispensability of technology integration and digital transformation. Sports is no exception. The global Esports market is expected to grow with a CAGR (2019 to 2024) of +8.7% to reach $218.7 billion in 2024. In the Middle East, Esports represents a natural fit for the region, where the majority of the population is young and internet-savvy. 

It also holds promising growth potential as governments continue to invest in sport and digital transformation as a way to diversify their economies. A recent PwC survey shows that Saudi Arabia ranks among the top 20 countries for games revenue at $716m, with the UAE generating $313m and Egypt $287m.

Qatar has a strong starting point with advanced ICT and adaptability, ranked 8th in the Global Competitiveness Index’s “ICT Adoption” pillar.  With the world’s 1st commercially available 5G network and with 99 percent internet penetration, the country continues to support investors to unfold opportunities through its licensing platforms such as Qatar Financial Centre and Qatar Sports Tech. 

Sports healthcare to drive more opportunities

The global sports medicine and physiotherapy market was estimated at $8.2bn in 2020 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 8.83 percent to reach $14.9bn by 2027. Qatar boasts futuristic sports medicine facilities. It is home to Aspetar – Qatar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital – which is the first such facility in the region and is accredited by FIFA as a sports medicine centre of excellence. 

Boasting some of the world’s finest sports infrastructure Qatar has cemented its position as a global sports destination. 

New sports legacy 

Hosting the FIFA World Cup has helped Qatar draw investment. The country has introduced measures that will not only deliver an unparalleled World Cup experience but create opportunities. The mega projects — from a railway and airport expansion to construction projects worth $200bn will boost business and draw investment in 2022 and beyond. 

With over a million fans travelling to the country, tourism and hospitality will benefit immensely from preparation for sporting events. Describing Qatar’s economy post-World Cup 2022, Nasser Al Khater, CEO of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, said, “The country’s focus will shift from infrastructure development to tourism and will likely go in the direction of Russia post-World Cup 2018”. The tournament added $14bn to the Russian economy, and the benefits are still being felt. 

Qatar is poised to spur development. The country’s vision and futuristic infrastructure have not only accelerated the development of sports industry, but also bolstered growth potential of different sectors.

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