The cost of hosting the FIFA World Cup has been the topic of much conversation and controversy in recent days, stirred up afresh by the resignation of FIFA chief Sepp Blatter amid allegations of bribery linked to South Africa’s 2010 World Cup bid.
It’s not secret that World Cup host countries have to fork out millions of dollars on infrastructure and stadiums. Meanwhile, FIFA, the organizing body of the tournament, keeps the majority of the profits from the sale of tickets, media rights, and global sponsorship deals.
Here are the price tags for the last 10 FIFA World Cup tournaments, including last year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Sources: WorldCupBrazil.net, News.BBC.co.uk, Money.CNN.com, ThePostGame.com, TheAfricaReport.com, Wikipedia.org, RTE.ie, CNBC.com, TwoHundredPercent.net, PlanetWorldCup.com, ThinkProgress.com, IBTimes.com, CelebrityNetWorth.com, ConsultancyAfrica.com
The 1978 World Cup in Argentina was particularly contentious, given that the country was in the throes of a military dictatorship. The $700 million spent on the tournament constituted 10 percent of Argentina’s national debt at a time that the country’s finances were close to being in complete ruin, and there was much dissent about the decision to keep the tournament there. It is estimated that the spending on the tournament amounted to 40 percent of Argentina’s annual spending on education at that time.
Given Spain’s already extensive football infrastructure, it is estimated that the cost to host the 1982 World Cup was only a fifth of what Argentina spent in 1978. It was the first year that the World Cup was expanded to host 24 teams, and Spain held the tournament in 17 stadiums across 14 cities.
Colombia was supposed to host the 1986 World Cup, but pulled out in 1983 due to prohibitive costs and a lack of infrastructure. Mexico was chosen to step up, becoming the first country ever to host the World Cup twice. It was able to use all the same stadiums used in the 1970 tournament. The 1986 tournament was played in 12 stadiums across 11 cities, and little investment was needed to make them World Cup-ready, so there are no official estimates on how much was spent on tournament preparations. Mexico experienced a deadly earthquake eight months before the 1986 World Cup, but since the stadiums were not damaged, they were able to host as planned.
The 1990 World Cup in Italy saw 12 different cities host games in 12 different stadiums, and several new stadiums were built from the ground up for the tournament. The Stadio San Nicola in Bari, as well as Turin’s Stadio delle Alpi, were built entirely for the World Cup, while others underwent extensive improvements. It was Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, home for the tournament final, that ended up being the most expensive project.
The 1994 World Cup in the U.S. was held in nine different cities across the country, but costs remained low since each of the cities already had hotels, state-of-the-art stadiums, international airports, and other necessary infrastructure to host the tournament. However, while it was estimated that the U.S. would gain an economic benefit of $17 billion by hosting the event, it only recorded $4 billion in earnings – not taking expenses and other costs into account.
The bulk of France’s price tag for the 1998 World Cup came from stadium construction. After it was selected in 1992 by FIFA, it came to light that none of the country’s regional club grounds had the capacity to meet standards for the World Cup to safely seat 40,000 people. Then-Mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac, negotiated a deal to build the Stade de France in Paris to serve as the national stadium. It was the venue for the bulk of tournament matches, the opening ceremony and the final. Nine other stadiums were also used in eight different cities.
The 2002 World Cup was the first tournament to be held on the Asian continent, as well as the first to be held spanning two different countries. Costs to hold the tournament ballooned in 2002 to an estimated $4.7 billion between Japan and South Korea, with the bulk spent on facility construction. South Korea alone spent $2 billion on its stadium infrastructure. The cost was a surprise to both countries, far exceeding estimates. South Korea had already hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and assumed it could host the World Cup without too much trouble.
The 2006 World Cup in Germany was one of the few that was considered financially successful for the host country, creating a $194 million in net revenue for the organizing committee. Germany already had a plethora of stadiums that met FIFA’s capacity requirements and chose 12 stadiums in 12 different cities to host the event. It remains the ideal example for World Cup hosts, but its success has yet to be replicated since.
The South Africa-hosted 2010 World Cup far exceeded its original estimated price tag of $1.7 billion. Stadium construction alone cost the country $2.1 billion. For the tournament, South Africa built six new stadiums and renovated four others, including the enormous Soccer City in Johannesburg for the final. An additional $197 million was invested in the material, training, and increased workforce of police services to maintain safety and order throughout the tournament. Millions more were spent on improving the country’s road and airport infrastructure to handle the increased tourists that would be traveling through.
The 2014 World Cup underway in Brazil is the most expensive World Cup of all time, and has angered many Brazilians who see their government spending the country’s money on a soccer tournament rather than investing in local infrastructure and improving housing conditions. Brazil built a multitude of state-of-the-art stadiums, with $900 million alone spent to build the Estadio Nacional in Basilia. This price tag made it the second most-expensive football stadium in the world, after England’s Wembley Stadium, which cost $1.25 billion.