The World Cup — can it be worth all the fuss?

Should the eye-watering sums spent on the planet’s biggest event – not to mention the time and effort that goes into it – be diverted to more worthwhile causes?

So it has started. The first World Cup to be held in Africa has seen in its first eight matches, some triumphs and disasters, some beautiful football and acres of mainstream media coverage in every country of the world. Most media outlets are firmly focussed on their home team. Here, more newspaper pages have been devoted to Fabio Capello and the England team than were given to the election of the first black president of the USA. While the Olympic Games contain more events and more countries, in terms of global attention and commercial impact, the World Cup has now become the biggest event on the planet. Around 715 million people watched the 2006 final, breaking global viewing records.
But this all comes at a cost, and often an unequal one. South Africa has spent around £5.6bn on infrastructure for this year’s tournament. All of the 32 participating countries have spent millions on training and preparations. Fans spend billions on travel, TVs, celebrations and buying products such as official England garden gnomes. Big business will spend billions on advertising and marketing.

And this year’s tournament will also be the biggest gambling event ever, with over £1bn on bets in the UK alone. It is no more than an educated guess, but one expert last week estimated that the total amount spent on the 2010 World Cup would be over £100 billion in a month. (This would pay the living costs of an average African country for over one year).

Commercial con-trick?

Is the World Cup is worth it? Could the money be better spent on health, education, climate change and other pressing issues? Some argue: yes, the World Cup is basically a vast commercial con-trick in which huge amounts of money are transferred from fans to the football industry, TV companies, advertising agencies and big business. We should divert this to more serious needs. Others argue: no, the enjoyment, comradeship and national pride that the World Cup creates is worth every penny and there’s nothing wrong with people making money out of it.

False question, say others. The World Cup is like shopping. We spend our money how we like. And that helps provide livelihoods for others. If we didn’t spend our money on football, we would spend it on something else.

You Decide

  1. From ancient Rome to the present day, societies have always prized their entertainments highly. Is this a weakness or a strength?
  2. In your experience, does sport tend to unite people or divide them and cause trouble?
  3. What is it about football that makes it the world’s most popular spectator sport?

Activities

  1. Make a poster for a (legal) entertainment event, featuring sporting or entertainment stars dead or alive that you think could be an even bigger draw than the 2010 World Cup.

Some People Say...

“I beat the people from China. I win against China. You can win against China if you're smart.”

Donald Trump

What do you think?

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