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Qatar World Cup ‘good for Wales’, but too early to assess economic impact

11 Jul 2023 6 minute read
Wales celebrate reaching the World Cup Finals. Photo Welsh Government

Martin Shipton

The Welsh Government’s “Tîm Cymru” (Team Wales) approach to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar increased the visibility and profile of Wales on the international stage during and after the competition, new research shows.

But it is too early to assess the economic impact of Wales’ involvement in the tournament, which was controversial because of human rights concerns about the host nation, where homosexuality is illegal.

According to the report, by Arad Research, Welsh Government-funded activities have facilitated new partnerships, strengthened networks and enhanced economic, educational and cultural international relations.

A Partnership Support Fund (PSF) worth £1.8m across 19 projects was funded by the Welsh Government to support activities around the World Cup. The report highlighted how more than 320,000 people participated or attended over 2,200 events and associated activities which reached an audience of over five million.

Furthermore, Welsh Government-funded PR activity led to 540 pieces of media coverage globally. This created an estimated eight billion ‘opportunities to see’ this coverage.

The report found that the visibility of Wales at the World Cup had increased awareness of the country among the audiences around the world.

The Welsh Government-funded World Cup activity, with a total cost of £3.8m, comprised:

* The PSF which funded 19 culture, sport and education organisations to deliver activities to celebrate Wales in the World Cup.

* An enhanced marketing campaign, which focused on core target international markets across the Cymru Wales brand, business and tourism as well as a strong in-Wales campaign presence. The campaign’s target markets included Wales, the USA, parts of Europe, the rest of the UK, and Qatar.

* Lleisiau Cymru World Cup Ambassadors – a new initiative consisting of a group of four individuals who worked to raise Wales’ profile internationally and to help create long-lasting positive perceptions and building strong relationships with key partners.

* International events organised by the Welsh Government’s overseas offices, particularly in Qatar and the USA.

It also found that this had all been achieved in the short time available between Wales’ qualification in June 2022 and the start of the tournament in November.

Distinct nation

Stakeholders reported that the Tîm Cymru approach had brought organisations together with a strategic and coordinated focus and highlighted the Welsh Government approach of combining sporting and cultural activities as being particularly effective in showcasing Wales internationally as a distinct nation.

The report found strong evidence that these activities have reached a wide audience, both domestic and internationally:

In terms of an economic impact, the report said: “It remains too soon to confidently report on whether the increased profile of Wales and emerging impacts of improved perceptions will be sustained over time. Stakeholders emphasised that nation brand-building is a longer-term endeavour and suggested that sustained activity will be required to fully capitalise on the positive emerging outcomes.

Many of the Welsh Government-funded activities sought to increase engagement with partners in target markets as part of a longer-term process of creating the right conditions for future economic activity. The findings demonstrate one early measurable economic outcome based on the enhanced tourism marketing activity, namely that the media buying partnership with an online travel agent generated a 50% increase year-on-year of gross bookings.”

However, the report also stated: “Mentions of Wales, including its cities and towns, in the context of travel, business, sustainability and talent increased between the first and second halves of 2022. However, increases in mentions of Wales were not notably different to those of England or Scotland [which did not qualify for the Qatar World Cup]. Mentions of Wales, including its cities and towns, in the context of wellbeing fell, though this was also the case for other UK nations.”


Welcoming the publication of the report, Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said: “The Welsh Government established an ambitious and exciting range of activities to make the most of the unique opportunity offered by the Cymru men’s football team’s participation in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

“Our objective was to promote Wales, project our values of inclusivity and diversity, ensure the safety of Welsh citizens at the tournament, and secure a positive and lasting legacy. The report published today demonstrates that we’ve exceeded our goals and are well on our way to achieving a lasting legacy.

“Our £1.8m Partner Support Fund has propelled Welsh talent across the world, facilitated new partnerships and strengthened networks in business, science and the arts.

“Thanks to our Tîm Cymru approach, bringing together a wide range of partners, the Welsh Government has built an effective and replicable model to support future strategies such as the potential joint hosting of the UEFA European Football Championship in 2028.”

Lleisiau Cymru’s Professor Laura McAllister, who had an altercation with a Qatari stadium official who objected to her wearing a rainbow bucket hat out of solidarity with the gay community in Qatar, said: “The World Cup offered an unprecedented opportunity for us to raise the profile of Cymru while also staying firm to and promoting our values of diversity, inclusivity and respect for human rights.

“I’m delighted at the success of our presence at the World Cup and we will build on its legacy and ensure we maximise this unique opportunity for Wales, for football and beyond.”

But Jeff Jones, a former Labour leader of Bridgend council, was sceptical about claims that Wales’ participation in the World Cup will have a positive impact on the Welsh economy. He said: “The evidence for any positive impact is very thin. The one relevant statistic included in the report relates to tourism bookings with an online travel agent, but it just refers to a percentage increase rather than how much that amounts to.

“I don’t buy the argument about sport leading to positive economic impacts. The idea that three football matches played in Qatar are going to transform the Welsh economy is illogical.

“I’m currently enjoying watching the under 20s Rugby World Cup from South Africa. The quality of the games is very impressive, but does anyone really believe the tournament will increase investment in South Africa or in the countries participating?

“One of the teams Wales played in Qatar was the USA. It didn’t stop Zimmer closing down their plant in Bridgend with the loss of 540 jobs.

Capitalists make decisions about where to invest based on where they can make most money, and that depends on whether there’s a skilled workforce available, good infrastructure and the plant is cheaper to operate than elsewhere.

“Sport should be enjoyed for its own sake.”

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago

Now compared to AFC Wrecsam where did it come…

“it did not stop Zimmer closing down” perhaps if Cymru had not voted to leave the EU the perception might have instilled a little more loyalty…who knows?

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
9 months ago

I’m certain Wales finally qualifying for the World Cup did have an affect on our economy although short-lived. There were thousands watching in pubs and venues, who bought food & drink to enjoy the tournament. But I only wish our team who worked so hard to get us to Qatar retained the form that got us to the World Cup after a 65 year hiatus. The fans expected better than a whimper.

9 months ago

Good? No, this was the first time most fans of these other nations in attendance ever head of Wales. And the players blew it!

9 months ago
Reply to  Riki

A decade ago we would taken this as a success. Reaching the semis at Euro 2016 exceeded our expectations. Don’t forget football is by far the most popular sport in the world and qualifying for it, where there are only 13 spaces for European teams was still a big achievement for a country of our size.
However now that the Euros have expanded to 24 teams failure to qualify for it should now be considered unacceptable by the Welsh public. Rob Page should have stepped down after conceeding 4 goals against Armenia in Cardiff.

9 months ago

Since we were pooled with both England and the USA, their really is no excuse not to know where Wales is & that it is not a part of England.

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