As the idea of Southeast Asian nations jointly bidding for the World Cup surfaced yet again over the weekend, a lecturer at Malaysia’s oldest university is reminded of his research several years ago.
Associate Prof Dr Megat Ahmad Kamaluddin Megat Daud was tasked to spearhead ‘The Asean Fifa World Cup 2034: The Feasibility Report’ – an idea that was conceptualised at the 2010 Asean Senior Officials Meeting on Sports.
Malaysia was tasked to carry out the study. Megat Ahmad, a lecturer at University Malaya’s Department of Educational Management, Planning and Policies, led the research involving five other professors and academicians from August 2015 to March 2016. The findings of the study, done in collaboration with the National Sports Council, were presented to the Youth and Sports Ministry the following year.
“We spoke to a whole lot of stakeholders. It wasn’t just research per say as we interviewed the presidents and deputy presidents of the football associations in Asean, other academicians and even government representatives,” recalled Megat Ahmad.
The study was based on fulfilling Fifa’s requirements, among others, to host a World Cup.
“And based on those findings, which include facilities, infrastructure, transportation and manpower, it was feasible for Asean to host the World Cup.”
Megat Ahmad pointed out among the requirements to host a World Cup is for the hosts to have a minimum of eight stadiums with a seating capacity of 40,000 and at least one stadium with a seating capacity of 80,000 for the opening and closing ceremonies.
“In Malaysia alone, we have nine stadiums that meet the requirement, two of which have a seating capacity of 80,000 and above (National Stadium, Bukit Jalil and Shah Alam Stadium). Indonesia has four stadiums – Gelora Bung Karno, Palaran Stadium, Gelora Bung Tomo and Riau Main Stadium – while Cambodia and Myanmar have two stadiums each to host World Cup matches. Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines have a stadium each that meet the requirement.”
He added existing facilities were adequate and that these stadiums only required either upgrading or outlay renovations to increase the seating capacity.
“The short travel time between nations is also a plus point and Southeast Asian nations have hosted a series of major events in the past, from SEA Games to the Commonwealth Games and the Youth Olympics.”
The other strength is the diversity among member nations, ranking the region as among the world’s top tourism spots.
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil generated an estimated US$7.6 billion in taxed revenue. Some three million spectators flocked the stadiums in various locations throughout the 35 days with an approximate television audience of 40 billion (with over 200 viewing hours).
However, Megat Ahmad is mindful of the realities in hosting an event of such a magnitude, as reflected in the report.
“There must be consensus on the hosting concept. Will it be a single host but playing venues in neighbouring nations or to co-host or multi-host the event.
“The foreign policies of certain countries must be looked into as there must not be any restriction for any national team, officials and spectators.”
Malaysia, for one, does not have diplomatic ties with Israel despite both nations trading with each other. Malaysia relinquished its right to host the 2017 Fifa Congress after the government refused to grant entry visas to Israeli delegates. Earlier this year, the International Paralympic Committee stripped Malaysia as hosts of the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships after the Home Ministry announced Israeli para swimmers and officials would be barred from entering the country.
This fact was also highlighted by former Asean Football Federation general secretary Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad to Twentytwo13 yesterday.
“The challenges aside, Asean’s ability to host the World Cup must be based on the creation of an extensive communication channel with open and transparent flow between member nations in the spirit of ‘Foster thy neighbour’.
“The member states must also manage the football legacy well after the tournament to ensure vibrancy and sustainability for the benefit of their communities,” he added.