x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

FIFA scores windfall in Abu Dhabi

The FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi provided a windfall of almost US$8 million (Dh29.3m) for football's international governing body last year.

Barcelona parades their first-place trophy in the final match of the FIFA Club World Cup at Zayed Sports City last year.
Barcelona parades their first-place trophy in the final match of the FIFA Club World Cup at Zayed Sports City last year.

The FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi provided a windfall of almost US$8 million (Dh29.3m) for football's international governing body last year, the first time the tournament has made a profit. The event brought in $37.4m in revenue and cost FIFA $29.5m, leaving it with a $7.9m profit, according to its financial statements for last year. The strong revenues came from "a high contribution by the host association", FIFA said, according to a report in InsideWorldFootball, a sports news website.

Abu Dhabi has increased its exposure to the world of sport enormously over the past two years by bringing in events such as the Formula One Grand Prix, held at the Yas Island race track, and the Capitala World Tennis Championship. This year, Abu Dhabi hosted its first Ultimate Fighting Championship after the capital's Flash Entertainment bought a 10 per cent stake in the parent company of the mixed martial arts competition. Dubai is considering whether to bid for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

Some of the UAE's biggest companies have been using these tournaments to increase their exposure in the world markets. Emirates Airline is a sponsor of the FIFA Club World Cup, while Mubadala Development and Etihad Airways sponsor the Ferrari F1 team. The Abu Dhabi football tournament's profit was in stark contrast to the losses made in Japan in 2008 that cost the organisation about $6.2m. The FIFA Club World Club will again be held in Abu Dhabi in December, before returning to Japan for another two years.

Next year, FIFA is expected to put out a bid for countries interested in hosting the tournament. Abu Dhabi officials have not yet said whether they would pitch for the tournament again. The 2009 Club World Cup lasted 11 days and gave seven clubs the chance to take home a US$5m first prize. It was won by the European champions Barcelona who defeated Estudiantes 2-1 in extra time. Al-Alhi, a local team, missed their chance at glory when they lost to Auckland City 2-0. The games took place at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium and Zayed Sports City. Thousands of fans flew into the capital to watch the games.

FIFA profits last year were up 6.5 per cent from the year before to $196m. The teams in this year's tournament are Brazil's Sport Club Internacional, Italy's Internazionale Milano, Mexico's Club de Futbol Pachuca, Papua New Guinea's Hekari United and the UAE's own Al-Wahda. The winners of the 2010 Asian competition the AFC Champions League, and the African tournament CAF Champions League, which end in November, will also participate in the Club World Cup.

bhope@thenational.ae