Morocco has failed in its effort to secure hosting rights for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The country's bid team argued the tournament would bring an economic windfall, but how long-lasting would those benefits have been?
Delegates from more than 200 FIFA member nations voted Wednesday on whether Morocco or a joint North American bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico would host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. In the end, Morocco garnered just 65 votes.
"I wish to congratulate my colleagues from the United States, Mexico and Canada and wish them all the best," Moroccan federation chief Fouzi Lekjaa said, adding he hoped that his country would "realize some day the dream of hosting the World Cup."
Morocco has made four failed bids in the past for the World Cup: in 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010. The 2010 bidding process in particularly came under scrutiny after a corruption scandal surrounding FIFA and its then-head, Sepp Blatter, with critics arguing that Morocco deserved to win over the eventual tournament host, South Africa.
A magic bullet for Morocco?
Moncef El Yazghi, a Moroccan researcher in sports policy, said that Moroccans had high hopes that hosting the World Cup would have alleviated an ongoing economic crisis in the country. "Morocco has been counting on bolstering economic and social development by embracing the World Cup," he said, noting the infrastructure investment required to host such a tournament.
Morocco would have raked in $1.07 billion (€908 billion) in combined ticket and hospitality revenue during the World Cup, according to FIFA, but the North American tournament is expected to bring in $2 billion more.
"Technically speaking, it's understandable that the US bid capacity surpasses Morocco's," said Omar Chrayabi, a Moroccan sports journalist. "The world still looks at Africa as an underdog, but we can't afford to give up."
In Morocco's capital city, Rabat, 49-year old Abdelmula was more cynical. "It was Africa's turn, but [the vote] was biased because Morocco is part of the Third World and the powerful may have conspired against it," he told news agency AFP.
'No dynamic effect' on the the economy
According to Markus Loewe, an economist at the German Development Institute, any economic boost that Morocco would have received from hosting the World Cup would have been temporary. "We have seen that for Brazil, which hosted the Cup in 2014, and South Africa, which hosted it in 2010, the net positive effect on the economies were much less than one might expect," he told DW. "Many of the hotels, stadiums and other places built for the World Cups there are not being used anymore and were very expensive."
Russia, the host of this year's World Cup, for example, has faced huge costs to build its stadiums. Cities such as Volgograd, Yekaterinburg and Kaliningrad may have to pay roughly 200,000 million to 500 million rubles (€2.6 to 6.5 million, $3.2 to 8 million) to maintain the venues after the tournament is over. For a small country like Morocco, those costs could represent an significant burden.
Even when it comes to employment, the extra work created by the World Cup often has a limited shelf life. "It would have helped the country's economic situation for a while, but the jobs would have ended," said Loewe. "There's no reason to believe that the World Cup would have had dynamic effects that would have triggered a massive change in the Moroccan economy."