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Morocco must now tackle cost of World Cup win

Morocco reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2022, their best finish in the tournament Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach
Morocco reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2022, their best finish in the tournament
  • Morocco one of 6 nations hosting 2030 cup
  • Country’s economy struggling
  • Legacy must be worth outlay, analysts warn

Winning the right to co-host the World Cup in 2030 will have Morocco walking an economic tightrope, experts say.

Morocco will become only the second African nation to host the event, albeit alongside five other countries spread across three continents.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the World Cup, the 2030 edition will be jointly held in Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The North African country is also holding the African Cup of Nations in 2025. It had long wished to be the sole host of football’s showpiece occasion but agreed to share.

“2030 is not a perfect outcome for the country, but it is still a positive one,” said Simon Chadwick, professor of sport and geopolitical economy at Skema Business School in France.  

“Morocco will be centre stage. This will bring image and reputation benefits for the country, as well as some economic benefits.”

In 2022 Qatar spent around $200 billion to upgrade its infrastructure, including building a number of new stadiums, as well as roads, hotels and a metro system.

Such expenditure would not be required for Morocco, which already has six Fifa-approved stadiums that have been selected as venues for the North African leg of the 2030 tournament.

Speaking on Radio Mars, Fouzi Lekjaa, president of Morocco’s Football Federation, confirmed that the stadiums in Rabat, Agadir, Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangiers and Fes had been selected. 

“We are working on the possibility of adding other stadiums,” he added. “The country has also asked to host the final. Negotiations are underway. Should this be the case, it would be played in Casablanca’s new 95,000-capacity stadium.”

Chadwick explained any necessary infrastructure spend could be partly funded “by a wealthy backer from the Gulf”.

Like most emerging markets, the Moroccan economy has been battling with the twin shocks of the global pandemic and the Russian conflict with Ukraine. 

Earlier this year Morocco secured a two-year assistance programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) via a flexible credit line of $5 billion, requiring policy makers to implement further structural reforms. 

And last month the IMF executive board approved a $1.3 billion, 18-month loan from its Resilience and Sustainability Facility to help the country’s defence against climate-related disasters.

The request was made before the earthquake in the High Atlas Mountains which killed almost 3,000 people.

The big question around hosting major events such as the World Cup or the Olympics is always what happens to the infrastructure once the fans have gone home.

In Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, $2.5 billion was spent to build new and renovate old stadiums. Almost $630 million was used to bring the iconic Maracanã stadium up to date. After the final, the venue was used in the 2016 Olympics but has since fallen into a state of disrepair.

“Legacy management must be a key element in Morocco’s event planning,” Chadwick said.

While Morocco celebrates the historic award, François Conradie, lead political economist with Oxford Economics Africa, admitted concerns over government finances, with gross debt expected to increase from its 2022 year-end ratio of 90.6 percent of GDP.

“Debt-fuelled spending will, at some point, necessitate an austerity treatment that will batter household demand, which is already just barely holding up,” Conradie said. 

“We fear that, as a number of host countries to major events have found, the party in the form of the influx of tourist spending will not make the long-term debt hangover worth it.”

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