Changing The World Of Sport- Nigel Rushman

February 8, 2012

On December 2, 2010, FIFA President Sepp Blatter uttered a single world which, at a stroke, changed the global map of sport for ever.

That word was Qatar.

His announcement that the geographically tiny Gulf State had won the contest to host the FIFA World Cup 2022 ignited jubilant celebrations at the ceremony in Zurich and 3,000 miles away in Doha.

FIFA had made a seminal decision, which signified more than any other that the old order in sport was over and that a new age of inclusion and opportunity had begun.  I am proud to have been part of the team which helped Qatar win.

My role was as a strategic advisor, providing perspective, insight and analysis across the myriad of challenges facing the Bid.

When Qatar’s Bid was announced it was considered a rank outsider for a number of reasons. Among them was the nation’s perceived lack of a track record in football or a deep football culture.  This was allied with a lack of any real depth of understanding about what modern Qatar is, what it is capable of, what it represents and what its aspirations are. This lack of understanding and cultural connection was compounded by the widely-held belief that it simply wouldn’t be possible to hold the World Cup in its scheduled calendar slot because the temperatures in Qatar would be dangerous for the players and intolerable for the fans. There were, of course, other challenges but these were among the key issues facing the Bid team.

Qatar’s Bid had great strengths that were not perhaps understood from the outside. Critically, the World Cup Bid was not the result of some kind of personal or national whim. Instead it was an integral part of a master plan which sees sport, and the hosting of major sports events, as a vital component of the nation’s brand and of its future social and economic balance. Critically the role of sport is enshrined in the government’s Vision 2030 strategy, which identifies not only where Qatar wants to be but the sort of society it wishes to become and the role it wants to play in the region and the wider world.

This recognition of the importance of sport and major sports events not only provided the impetus for the Bid but a constant focus for the Bid team. It also meant that winning the 2022 FIFA World Cup was a project of prime national importance which attracted and unified the support of Qatar’s governmental, commercial and social sectors. This was a significant advantage for the Bid.

In developing the strategy it was necessary to identify milestones, obstacles, opportunities, areas of likely resistance, credibility issues, technical challenges and much more. Not least of all was the knowledge that the entire world would be asking how a small nation, such as Qatar, could deal with the sheer scale and intensity of one of the world’s biggest sports events.

In the first phases of strategy planning we drew on Rushmans Major Event Architecture, RMEa™, an event planning methodology which draws on visualisation techniques pioneered in industry and commerce and used by some of the world’s premier corporations. We have harnessed 25 years of major event experience to these techniques to develop RMEa™, which draws together all the stakeholders in a project in a truly collaborative environment, in which they work to plot the journey from project inception to completion, identifying every hurdle along the way and sub-strategies for overcoming them.