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Winning sport-related business in Russia and Qatar 'a challenge' for British firms

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Negative media reports from the UK about Qatar and sanctions on some Russian businesses has made it “challenging” for British firms to win contracts related to the FIFA World Cup tournaments they will respectively host, according to trade experts.

Russia is set to host the tournament in 2018, with Qatar staging the major football event four years later.

Of the latter, numerous reports have emerged over the last few years which have speculated on the number of deaths caused during stadium construction, with figures are high as 7,000 mooted by reports – although the Qatari government has repeatedly refuted the claims.

Aizaz Thapur – UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) senior commercial attache based in Doha – said that matching British firms with buyers in Qatar had “been a challenge”, adding: “What really doesn’t help is that the news reports come from this country (UK), so that can make things uncomfortable. But, to be honest, I think that the decision-makers and influencers in Qatar are knowledgeable enough to overlook that.”

Talking at UKTI’s Global Sports Project Conference 2016 yesterday (23 February), Thapur told delegates that there was “significant opportunity” to win contracts in Qatar as the nation was embarking on a US$200bn infrastructure expansion as part of its 2030 national vision – of which the World Cup plays a significant part.

Qatar may build up to 12 stadia and 94 training facilities in the run-up to the tournament, as well as 130 hotels and transport infrastructure improvements, so opportunities were there, but only for businesses with “innovative and sustainable solutions”.

“Qatar is a competitive market, but it has huge potential,” he said. “The whole world is trying to sell to Qatar – we need to bring our niche areas and state-of-the-art products to market.”

Russia has also had its fair share of bad press after its military intervention in Ukraine, and has had subsequent trade sanctions implemented as a result.

UKTI Russia head of team, Global Sporting Events, Taissia Zelenkova, admitted that challenges existed when trying to pair British firms with Russian companies, not just in term of the sanctions but also the country’s economic downturn which has resulted in a drastic devaluation of its currency.

As a result, Russia has had to review its budget for the 2018 World Cup, and has been permitted by FIFA to reduce the number of training grounds to three per stadium from four. However, the budget reduction does not affect the investment in stadia and infrastructure.

Zelenkova highlighted opportunities in temporary construction, overlay supply and installation, sports venue security and the modernisation of 11 airport. British firms can find out which Russia organisations are sanctioned via information from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

For both nations, the cloud surrounding FIFA’s corruption crisis has also raised questions over the legitimacy of their winning bids.

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Negative media reports from the UK about Qatar and sanctions on some Russian businesses has made it “challenging” for British firms to win contracts related to the FIFA World Cup tournaments they will respectively host, according to trade experts.
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UKTI's Aizaz Thapur (left) and Taissia Zelenkova (centre-left) revealed business opportunities around the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups
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