Rabat – If Morocco is awarded the tournament it will require a mobilization of citizens, significant government resources, and corporate sponsorships on a level not seen in Morocco — and a heavy dose of Moroccan hospitality. A vote and decision will be made on June 13 during the FIFA Congress.
But Morocco has held major international events before: the 2016 COP22 climate conference in Marrakech and the now-underway African Nations Championship (CHAN). Should Morocco be selected, here are some facts, trivia, challenges and aspirations for the kingdom as it prepares for 2026:
1. A lot of teams, a lot of people.
FIFA has announced that, for the 2026 tournament, 48 teams will earn the right to play, up from 32 for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. 16 groups, three teams each. This makes for several hundred more players and team personnel, dozens of more media representatives, and, likely, several thousand more fans. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa attracted a reported total attendance of nearly 3.2 million for 64 matches. An estimated 309,000 foreigners came to that tournament, modestly below expectations.
2. A Casa-Rabat Metroplex?
Casablanca and Rabat are about 50 miles apart, the same distance as Boston and Providence, Rhode Island. As both metro areas grow and expand, hosting the 2026 World Cup would provide a unique opportunity (and challenge) for Morocco’s urban planners to show off a bold vision of urban sustainability in a very population-dense region. If both the Casa and Rabat-Sale core metro areas maintain a population growth rate of about .006 percent, nearly 300,000 new residents will live in the potential metroplex by 2026.
3. Destination Tangier.
Morocco’s northern hub of economic development would likely be a principal gateway for an enormous influx of World Cup fans. The harbor redevelopment will be finished, allowing more fast-jet boats from Spain and cruise ships to dock. An airport that is a gateway to Morocco for numerous discount carriers like Ryan Air would see a large increase in arrivals.
Tanger-Med, the region’s cargo port facility is already equipped with a passenger terminal and rail and bus connections to Tangier city itself. The city’s amenities will need to handle tens of thousands of soccer fans coming and going each week over the course of the month-long tournament.
Depending on the duration of the tournament and the number of matches played each day Morocco would need to utilize nine, ten, perhaps eleven stadiums. Tangier, Rabat, Casablanca, Agadir, Marrakech and Fes are home to facilities that are either new, have been refurbished or soon will be. Oujda, Tetouan and Al Hoceima are sites with planned stadiums.
It’s entirely likely another stadium beyond these would need to be built; if so, planners could decide to construct a flagship sports stadium near Casa or Rabat allowing Morocco to bid on a future summer Olympics. Or not. Morocco’s experience hosting the 2014 FIFA Club World Cup and numerous CAF matches demonstrates the passion for soccer among the country’s political and business leadership. Corporate sponsors willing to make a significant investment are crucial to help allay the costs of building stadiums and infrastructure improvements.
In preparation for the 2022 World Cup tournament, Qatar is spending somewhere between nine and ten billion dollars on seven new stadiums and infrastructure improvements. Russia’s original bid for the 2018 tournament proposed up to 16 stadiums, later decreased to 14 and then to the current 12. The challenge for 2026: 48 teams.
Morocco is fortunate to have numerous modern airports that serve geographically diverse areas. Marrakech, Tangier, Rabat, Casablanca’s Mohammad V, Marrakech, and Agadir. Add the newly opened Fes Saiss airport terminal, and the nation is in good shape to get people in and out of the kingdom. The national airport authority recently reported that 20.3 million passengers utilized one of its airports in 2017. Get ready for more wide-body jets that will require more ground services. That new high-speed LGV train is going to prove its worth.
6. Real-time drama.
To casual soccer fans, 0-0 draws are frustratingly boring. Introducing penalty shoot-outs, now part of World Cup Final play, at the end of overtime draws are great for televised drama and in-stadium excitement. More than one billion people watched the 2014 final between Germany and Argentina. Time is slightly on Morocco’s side. Well, the clock anyway. If the US/MEX/CAN bid won, it would mean many games being played while it was midnight or later throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
In the run-up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, in response to foreign and domestic traveler complaints about price gouging among some hotels, the nation’s tourism minister vowed an investigation. For 2026, Moroccan authorities will likely have to calibrate long-standing tourism regulations and practices to meet the needs of the sharing economy, from an influx of discount air carriers and private yachts to couch surfing in residential homes.
8. Creating jobs.
Quantifying the number of short-term jobs created by a specific short-duration event is fairly straightforward, especially construction jobs. Cape Town’s Green Point Stadium, built for the 2010 World Cup, utilized about 2,300 on-site workers, and several hundred short-term sub-contractor workers. Providing construction jobs for the rural and urban unemployed would lead to a noticeable short-term bounce in the Moroccan economy.
9. How much is a ticket?
Ticket prices for World Cup tournaments fluctuate wildly based on seating location, early or knock-out round play, host county national or overseas visitor, multi-game package or single-game ticket. Russia 2018 utilizes a two-stage ticket buying process; the first stage was reserved for those wanting venue-specific tickets or those wanting to see specific teams during the tournament. A single-game group match ticket will cost about $90, much lower, though, for Russian nationals: $24. Brazil 2014 offered discounts to Brazilian students, the elderly and low income ($15); the most expensive seat for the finals match was $990. Morocco 2026, too, would likely have a large number of discounted tickets available for citizens.
10. The intangibles of Morocco.
From the incredible diversity of landscape and people to the kingdom’s reputation for world-class hospitality to the wholehearted embrace of tolerance, Morocco’s bid will benefit from many things that can be measured, and many that cannot.
Good luck, Morocco. June 13 approaches.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent any institution or entity.
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