July 16 2018

Business Goals - Katar. United. China? / Qatar. United. China?

Germany, FIFA World Cup

Please find the English translation of the column below.

Heute erscheint der achte und letzte Teil der Netzathleten Kolumne von Dennis Trautwein, Vice President von Octagon Germany über die WM 2018.

Diesen finden Sie auf der Netzathleten Seite hier.


16 Jul 2018 Dennis Trautwein

France is World Champion! The FIFA World Cup 2018 is over. For our team on site it was also an evening full of emotions. After years of preparation and intensive moments in the last weeks this journey is now slowly but surely coming to an end. It is time to stop for a moment, say thank you and goodbye to the state of endless euphoria you live in during such a tournament. At the same time after a seemingly endless time the anticipation to see friends and family again.

But where will the journey take us moving forward? The highly controversial World Cup 2022 in Qatar is already a focal point. Four years later the US, Canada and Mexico (“United”) will be hosting the tournament. What about 2030? What options does FIFA have in the future? Given the investments in football in the last few years, I’m sure that the global federation would love to host a World Cup in China ASAP. That’d be 2030. I think China is the hottest candidate.

Just a Chinese participation alone would have tremendous impact, per the latest estimates from our colleagues at Futures, e.g. an increase of 3% in TV viewers worldwide.  So far, the Chinese are not quite convinced about the positive development of their national team, but for FIFA, China already is a very important player today. And even if it sounds like something from the future and still is: the next exciting market could be India; even if World Cup tournaments would be a huge organizational challenge in these countries.  

I know: In Germany, these outlooks result in suspicion. The ever-recurring question, whether football has sold its soul, the suggestion that the billion dollar business is drifting too far away from its fans and the critical attitude from the get go, is too impulsive and one-dimensional. My recommendation is to remove the German goggles and put on the ones of FIFA. The debate about commercialization only exists at this level and in this form in markets with a long tradition in football and in which the sport is unrivaled number one – so called mature football markets. Of course, these are very important football nations with a huge fan base and culture. Here, the development is seen differently than in many other parts of the world, as well as by FIFA. In other parts you don’t have these kinds of discussions, at least not as negatively as over here. That Germany and England are significant markets in FIFA’s endeavor to identify growth potential for its products, is highly questionable.

The DFL and its sponsors need to realize that there is a fine line between its original identity and the commercialization of football. Same goes for the Premier League. Hereby, the close cooperation with the fans is tremendously important, especially since the negative mood in the media is undeniable. These concerns don’t really exist in Asia, Africa or the Middle East. That’s why FIFA is going to subtly try to ignore it in Europe or South America – where necessary.  It’s not that much of a challenge for FIFA and its partners. On the contrary, they are on a different journey, because the business potential in World Cup markets of the future, especially in China, is enormous and by far not fully exhausted. FIFA is going to focus on that.

Whether 32 or 48 teams are competing at a World Cup in the future and whether its athleticism will be watered down that way – a complaint that I can absolutely understand looking at the European Cup in 2016 – FIFA certainly is viewing less critically. For FIFA, the expansion is a logical one: If the tournament grows, so do marketing opportunities, even if this is questionable in light of the sport. But FIFA long understood that a World Cup has to be promoted in a certain way: as a huge, intercultural festival; a global party. And if that party takes longer and more guests are attending, many will benefit. FIFA will increase its revenue tremendously. From their viewpoint, that’s legitimate.

So Qatar is next. Subject to geopolitical developments, the World Cup will be held as planned despite all criticism. For fans it will be a very special experience. The World Cup of very short distances; and extreme temperatures. The organizational tests that are usually conducted at the Confed Cup a year prior to the World Cup, will be canceled in 2021 in that form; an interesting starting point. Instead, the Club World Cup is supposed to be moved to Qatar. That certainly makes sense for organizers, but especially for sponsors, who own rights to the event, the situation isn’t as clear yet.

The discussions won’t stop. I hope, dear readers, in the last few weeks, I was able to help you to not only see things from different perspectives, but also to categorize them.

Stay kind to football. It’s still uniting people; more than politics ever will. In that sense:

I wish you all the best and a wonderful summer.



Dennis Trautwein



About Dennis Trautwein:

The football World Cup in Germany in 2006 was Dennis Trautwein’s personal ‘Sommermärchen’ (summer fairy tale) – the first World Cup experience for the then 26-year-old. His job at the World Cup Organizing Committee was the perfect entry into his career – and a lasting one. World Cups were going to play a major role for the now 38-year-old upon his start with Octagon Germany in 2007. His strategic focus was on the following FIFA World Cups in 2010, 2014 – and of course now the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Dennis Trautwein is one of the leading sport marketing experts in this country – and an absolute connoisseur of the scene.