2 years ago

The beautiful game: a source of trade & inclusion

Al Bayt Stadium is located in the city of Al Khor in Qatar. 	—FIFA
Al Bayt Stadium is located in the city of Al Khor in Qatar. —FIFA

Published :

Updated :

As we get ready for another FIFA World Cup, we recognise that football is the world's game, and a shining example of how people from different cultures, backgrounds, and ages can come together for a shared experience that brings excitement to so many. This year, the world watches in awe as footballing artists including Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and the rest of world football's finest players master their craft on the global stage.

More than five billion people are expected to tune in when the FIFA World Cup kicks off in Qatar, and the tournament will help foster global solidarity at a time when the world seems more than ever beset by war, economic instability and a series of crises. [It is scheduled to take place in Qatar from November 20 to December 18, 2022.]

Equally, as a business, football is also about trade. FIFA estimates that the global football economy is worth about US$ 200 billion. If we look closely, much of this value comes from the trade in goods and services and value of the intellectual property associated with the beautiful game. As world football's governing body, FIFA itself derives 95 per cent of its revenue from the sale of broadcasting and commercial rights related to the FIFA World Cup. Football merchandise is also big money, as witnessed by fans the world over, sporting the kits of their favourite teams and clubs. All of this is underpinned by intellectual property embedded in rights held by governing bodies, tournament organisers, national teams, clubs and players. 

The global rules on trade established under the World Trade Organization (WTO) help make all of this possible. By facilitating this, it's fair to say that the WTO is one of international football's biggest supporters.

At the same time, the benefits of this global football economy have not been shared by all. While the earnings from broadcasting and commercial rights help support FIFA's member associations in the developing world, many countries, communities, and people have been unable to tap into the business of football. 

Like international trade, football is a vital instrument for progressive economic development, inclusion and equity. It is thus fitting that the WTO and FIFA are now joining hands to try to spread the benefits of growth in men's and women's football beyond the pitch, the boardrooms and FIFA's 211 member associations.

A key mechanism for doing this will be to diversify the global networks of suppliers that feed into FIFA merchandising. The idea is to encourage more football-related merchandise to be sourced from the world's poorest countries, and from the millions of small enterprises that make up the backbone of the global economy.

For example, the WTO and FIFA will seek to boost the sourcing of cotton used in FIFA's sportswear and other merchandising from least-developed countries (LDCs) such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali, where cotton is a particularly important source of livelihoods and export revenue. Connecting vulnerable producers in these countries to important football value chains would create jobs, boost growth, and improve people's lives.  The two organisations will engage in joint analysis of football-related value chains to find additional opportunities to promote inclusive outcomes.

Additionally, the WTO and FIFA are urging global merchandise manufacturers to join the "call for action" launched by the WTO, the United Nations (UN), and the International Trade Centre (ITC) in July 2022, to invest in sourcing and value addition in least developed countries that are currently not part of their supply chains.

The two organisations will also seek to develop activities that leverage on football's potential in support of economic empowerment particularly of women, as well as shed light on its economic impact in terms of generating global economic growth and the role it can play in fostering global trade and development.

Football is a force for good in the joy it brings to its fans around the world. It can be an even greater force for good by furthering economic inclusion and development. Through our closer collaboration, and by using the trading system and football as instruments for economic inclusion, we can make the beautiful game shine even brighter.


Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is Director General of WTO. [email protected] Gianni Infantino is President of FIFA.

Share this news