World Cup footBALLS: parklife

Still wondering where this £100m in revenue the city council reckons can be made from hosting a World Cup is actually going to come from.

We already know that all the big money from TV rights goes to FIFA, not to host cities. Similarly cash from ticket sales, another big earner, is divided between FIFA, the FA and the football clubs concerned, leaving no room for a significant return on the council’s investment in the tournament.

However, last week Gary Hopkins likened the costs of hosting the World Cup to those of the Bristol Harbour Festival. Was he referring to the fan parks that are required as part of the bid?

Perhaps these are the cash cows the council’s expecting to make big money from?

Let’s take a closer look then: the Harbour Festival costs approximately £400,000 for a three day event in a single location and it’s attended by around 250,000 people.

It’s seen as worthwhile because it attracts visitors from outside the city who might otherwise not come; it provides some local businesses with the opportunity to book stalls at the event; and local bars, restaurants, pubs and the like benefit because visitors can pop in and out of the event and have a drink or a meal in central Bristol.

No one really knows if it’s the big economic engine some claim but the arguments made for it at least stack up.

But the Harbour Festival is also an event that doesn’t make you stay in the same place for a long period of time. Unlike a football match, which is essentially a two-hour event where the spectators remain within an enclosed area for its entirety and then make their way home.

So how does a World Cup fan park compare to a festival?

The capacity of a fan park is likely to be at least 20,000 (as it was in Hanover and Leipzig although Hamburg’s was 50,000 and Berlin’s over 100,000) and there must be at least 1 sq metre for each individual. So a 20,000 fan park will need to be at least 2 hectares, roughly half the size of the existing Bristol City football club site, and will probably host around 600,000 fans over the tournament.

And – as with all costs associated with hosting the World Cup – the cost for setting up and running the park falls not to FIFA, not to the FA but to the host city.

Although there’s plenty of strict rules courtesy of FIFA. They say these publicly funded fan parks have to be open throughout the tournament – that’s for 31 days compared to 3. The fan park has to be fenced with a security perimeter and have an ‘exclusion zone’ around it where the host city must ensure that no commercially branded goods are sold except those of the FIFA’s official sponsors.

Because FIFA’s official sponsors have the fan parks included in their sponsorship deals. This means no competitors will be allowed to sell either in the parks or in the ‘exclusion zone’.

To enforce this, each host city must, as part of its Host City Agreement with FIFA, set up and staff – at their own expense! – a Rights Protection Programme Team to safeguard against any breaches of sponsorship agreements.

For example, Coca-Cola – a regular World Cup sponsor – will be allowed to sell soft drinks in the fan park while McDonalds – another regular sponsor – will sell the food.

Other second level “local” sponsors can be involved as long as the main sponsors do not identify them as “competitors”.

In South Africa there will also be “unofficial” fan festivals but even here the sponsors must not be competitors of the main FIFA sponsors and if other products are allowed to be sold (for example tea or coffee) they must be sold in unbranded containers.

So a strict comparison between the Harbour Festival and the World Cup might be that if it costs us £400,000 to run a three day event it might cost us £4m to run a 30 day event … And funnily enough … The South African town of Rustenberg has calculated that it will cost nearly £4m to run it’s 20,000 capacity fan park during next year’s World Cup in South Africa.

The revenues, meanwhile, look set to be heading not to local businesses – like the Harbour Festival – but to multinational interests.

Indeed, the more you look at this, the more it seems like the World Cup Bid is an excuse to spend public money tobenefit of major corporations like Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Anheuser-Busch.

The fan parks – that will be paid for by us – are a good example.

Many local pubs and bars in Bristol made quite a bit of money during the last World Cup by putting up big screens and showing the games so that the vast majority of fans who didn’t travel to Germany could still enjoy the match in a group atmosphere.

But the fan parks will be attracting these same fans away from local bars and pubs to fenced off areas where the food and drink on offer will be provided by the official FIFA sponsors or “non-competitive” local sponsors backed by a council “Rights Protection Programme Team”.

As a result of this, “premium” prices of up to 50% above normal prices can be charged. For example in the European Championships in 2008, the normal price for a beer in Austria was 3-3.5 euros (£2.50 – £3.00) but in the fan zones it was priced at 4.5 euros (nearly £4.00).

So the fans get ripped off while local businesses lose out to global interests. In Germany in 2006 around 18 – 21 million fans attended the fan zones, the overwhelming majority of whom were locals …

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1 Response to World Cup footBALLS: parklife

  1. bristolboy says:

    Blogger, you are clearly no football fan. Most real fans who turn up in official World Cup venues do not use the fan parks – for exactly the reasons you highlight. They don’t want to buy official merchandise, drink Coke and eat McDonald’s meals. Instead, they eat, drink and make merry in the local pubs and bars. That was my experience following England in Germany. In every German city I visited, the local bars were jam packed with fans. The fans zones were horrible sterile, corporate-feeling areas. It’s not that they weren’t busy – they were just a very poor alternative to the real drinking places. No, if World Cup football fans come to Bristol, city businesses will do very, very well out of it.

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