Home > Uncategorized > ASEAN Should Bid for the World Cup in 2030

ASEAN Should Bid for the World Cup in 2030

December 10, 2010

Vietnamese football fans celebrate the national squad’s victory over Thailand in the 2008 ASEAN championship. Vietnam is hoping to repeat as regional champion during this year’s tournament, which is currently underway in Vietnam and Indonesia.

By Fuadi Pitsuwan, Adjunct Research Scholar, Georgetown University

ASEAN should host the World Cup in 2030. Doing so would benefit not only football fans, but also all Asean citizens.

The astounding decision last week by Fifa, the world’s football federation, to let Russia and Qatar host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022, respectively, gives Asean hope that it can seriously aspire to play host to the sporting event with the largest worldwide audience in 2030. The Fifa statutes stipulate that ‘tournaments may not be held on the same continent on two successive occasions’. Qatar is in the Asian Football Confederation together with all 10 Asean member states. Unless there is a rule change – for example, by splitting the 46-member confederation into western and eastern groups – Asean would be ineligible to host the 2026 World Cup. But there is still hope for 2030 (or any World Cup after that).

A World Cup final held in the Asean region would pack in the crowds. The grouping is, after all, home to some of the most fanatical football fans in the world. By 2030, the population of Asean, which now stands at almost 600 million, will be close to a billion. How’s that for a mega fan base? How exciting it would be if each member state were to provide at least one stadium for the tournament. With the prospect of Timor Leste joining the group as early as next year, Asean could quite easily build 11 stadiums.

The bid guidelines call for about 12 stadiums. Fifa also requires state-of-the-art telecommunications and transport connectivity and accommodation infrastructure. All this is well within Asean’s reach. The challenges of coordination and logistics in an 11-country tournament will be enormous. But Asean is already well connected by all forms of transportation and will surely be better integrated by 2030. The recently launched Asean Connectivity masterplan will bring the member states closer through air, land and sea transportation. The grouping is also working on something similar to the Schengen Visa, which enables travellers to visit 25 European countries with just one visa. This will facilitate non-Asean citizens’ travel in the region.

According to Fifa rules, the host nation – or nations, as when South Korea and Japan co-hosted the tournament in 2002 – automatically qualifies to participate in the World Cup Finals. Asean obviously cannot send 11 teams to compete in a tournament of 32. But it could send the best or the best two teams selected through a regional tournament. Better still, if Asean’s bid for the Cup won, the group could send a team with the best players from all 11 countries.

An Asean bid for the 2030 World Cup could face stiff competition from China and Argentina-Uruguay. China has already expressed interest, touting its experience in hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics and this year’s Asian Games. Uruguay and Argentina have already started their campaign and are planning a joint bid. Their case rests on the fact that 2030 is the 100th anniversary of the tournament. Uruguay, having hosted the first World Cup in 1930, claims that the competition should return to the country in 2030. These are real challenges for Asean, but it is capable of submitting a bid that is just as attractive, if not more so, than these countries. Even if it loses, it can always try again.

Hosting the World Cup would raise Asean’s global standing. It would be the first time a regional intergovernmental bloc would host a sporting event of such significance. Not even the European Union has done it. The tournament would benefit Asean in other ways. The revenue from broadcasting concessions, ticket sales and advertising could be used for development. The required stadiums could be built in less-developed cities to stimulate economic growth there. The most-watched games – such as the opening and final matches – could be held in the needier member-nations of Asean to stimulate economic development and showcase them as new investment or travel destinations.

This is not the first time that the idea of hosting the world’s most important football tournament has been raised. At the Asean Finance Ministers’ Investor Seminar concluded recently in Kuala Lumpur, Thailand’s Minister of Finance Korn Chatikavanij apparently proposed that Asean bid for the World Cup. Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan, when told of the idea, responded with: “Yes, I have been thinking about the same thing. I will push it. See if Asean will take the plunge.”

This post was originally published in the Straits Times on Friday, December 10. Photo by Flickr user yokada88, used under a Creative Commons license.

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