Political risks and the 2018 and 2022 World Cups: Developing and applying a framework for analyzing and assessing political risks for sports events

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceedingpeer-review


The cancellation of the Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix
event in February 2011 acts as a reminder of how sport
events can be vulnerable to political change and turmoil.
What was particularly notable was the speed of change in
the region and how political events rippled beyond country
borders, impacting and shaping events as they went. They
also illustrated that whilst authoritarian political systems
can have long periods of stability, when the pressure for
change becomes so great, then it tends to be far more
dramatic, explosive and sometimes violent in comparison
with democratic countries.
These events in the region, along with the awarding of the
Football World Cup to Russia and Qatar, raise some
important questions as to what the political risks FIFA and
the football event will be exposed to, particularly if one
adopts the position that the events now take place in a
global, inconnected world. A simple comparison with other
large scale sporting events reveals many interesting
potential risks and how the event can both help shape the
political environment, or be shaped itself by political
processes. For example, whilst it can be argued that the
1988 Olympics in South Korea helped nudge (not cause)
the country to move from an authoritarian system to a
democratic one, for the 2008 games in China, if anything,
the reverse seemed true, whereby staging the Olympics
helped strengthen the regime’s authority and did more to
erode, rather than improve people’s human rights, with the
risks of domestic and international terrorism being a key
way to legitamise the increase in surveliance and security.
The result, some argue, was to damage the Olympic brand
and compromise many of the principles and roles which
can be found in the Olympic Charter.
What this paper does is to look more deeply at the nature
of the political risks that exist presently and for the future in
Russia and Qatar and how these can impact on both FIFA
and the actual football event itself. A practical framework of analysis is developed which accesses secondary data, via
a variety of open databases in order to identify the risks,
analyse them and then develop a form of assessment. The
work adopts a 4th age risk paradigm (Tarlow 2002),
whereby risk is viewed as something which can create
both opportunities and threats, along with seeing risks as
being embedded in complex systems. An important part of
the paper will be to illustrate how the framework developed
can be used for assessing political risks for a variety of
sporting events.
The preliminary findings show that whilst on many levels
the political systems of Qatar and Russia have various
elements which can create many conditions of stability,
there are a number of areas of concern, where their
political systems can potentially damage the FIFA brand,
compromise some of its goals and generate various
operational risks. It shows that in the decision making
process, the assessment and consideration of political
situations seems to be one based more on 'hope' that
there will be a positive political environment for the event,
rather than a deeper and critical analysis of the political
situations, having the readymade, but trite fall-back
position that sport and politics should not mix if things start
to go wrong.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEASM – Commitment in Sport Management, Madrid, Spain.
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Event19th EASM Conference - Madrid, Spain
Duration: 7 Sept 20119 Sept 2011


Conference19th EASM Conference


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