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Potential Benefits of Supporting Sports in Lebanon

Photo via Creative Commons

By Mahmoud Araissi
Special to the LAU Tribune

The Lebanese national football team defeated South Korea 2-1 in their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying match at the Camille Chamoun Sports City stadium in Beirut on November 15.

The official FIFA World Rankings lists South Korea at 31 while Lebanon is ranked 146th. This success is remarkable and leaves the Lebanese team on the brink of advancing to the fourth round of World Cup qualifiers. This result can also be promising for the future of the country’s various sports teams.

Following this success, Lebanon’s private and public sports ought to invest heavily in team sports. Football investment would help lift tourism. Other than the classic analysis of football as a sports game, some countries consider the sports as a component of the economy, society and culture. The interdisciplinary perspective also regards football as an instrument through which the sustainable development of a city can be achieved, and thus the authorities should include the local team in their urban management plan.

In order to obtain sustainable development through sport, football clubs must be seen as viable economic entities, just as enterprises are, because we are interested in how they can contribute to the economic prosperity, the quality of the environment and the social equity of Lebanon. In general, the football club and its city of origin influence each other, each contributing to the development of the other. A good example would be Real Madrid, the private nonprofit football club that is supported by more than 100,000 club members and how it lifted the Spanish capital status and generated much appreciated revenue for the city. Real Madrid generated 38 percent of its $115.6 million 2004 revenues from merchandise and marketing deals. Since Lebanon emphasizes a consumer and services-based economy, it becomes natural to attempt to obtain sustainable development through a football club reputable as a marketing brand.

Local authorities could invest in the local football club(s) directly or indirectly. The direct investment means that the financial help local authorities offer reaches only the football club, the solo beneficiary. Indirect investment means the local authorities allocate funds to the general development of the city, and the football club takes advantage of this development. For example, having a powerful club in the city, a municipality may decide to help by investing in the development of public transport services so as to facilitate the arrival and return of the fans to and from the stadium. Because of the better transport conditions, the football team would attract more fans to the stadium and, as a result, increase its revenue from ticket sales. However, at the same time, the city also wins, through income and sales taxes that the local authority charges. Higher incomes of the football club will also increase the revenues of the local authority.

Therefore, local authorities’ financial investment in the football usually results in obtaining commercial and naming rights and attracting sponsors and partners. In the long run if the country gets to host a World Cup it could reap many economic benefits. The German government, for example, reported a 400 million dollar increase in tourism revenue and three billion dollars in retail in just over a month when they hosted the World Cup. A reported 50,000 new jobs were yielded in preparation for the tournament; restaurants and bars were full at all hours of the tournament. If things go well for Lebanon in their next qualifier game with the United Arab Emirates, we can expect this success to bring renewed attention to the Lebanese national football team. As our state looks to create jobs and increase revenues, the tourism and hospitality industry is poised to make a significant contribution.

Intense research has been carried onto how a major sports competition, like the World Cup or the Olympic Games, can improve the economy, the society and the environment of the host country. However, few authors have tried to demonstrate how a professional sports club, not an event, could do the same.

For more information or for a more thorough discussion of the subject, please contact Mahmoud Araissi <mahmoud.araissi@lau.edu.lb>

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About LAU Tribune

The official student newspaper at the Lebanese American University

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