The FIFA World Cup is the biggest sporting event of the year and the largest sports marketing exercise since the last World Cup.
It is also a lot more besides, a cultural battleground at times, a clash of east and west, a case study in the power of money, and the most controversial sporting competition since the apartheid days in South Africa.
Our job is to bring the stories of what is happening off the field of play to the attention of our Sport for Business readers.
FRAPPART TEARS DOWN THE BARRIER
Stephanie Frappart from France became the first woman to referee a World Cup Finals match last night, taking charge of the Group E game between Germany and Costa Rica. She was backed up for the historic occasion by Neuza Back from Brazil and Karen Diaz Medina from Mexico on the sidelines.
Frappart had been a fourth official in Poland Mexico game last week and has staked another claim to history by being the first woman to referee a Champions League game.
At one point last night it looked like Japan and Costa Rica would advance at the expense of Spain and Germany. The germans got Spain out of jail by bouncing back but they still join Belgium on a day of woe for the old guard of Europe.
It could be a changing of the guard but it could equally be down to the winter timing and most of the European Leagues still having their players in their club environments until a week before the Finals. Then again most of the players in action for all countries are playing in the European Leagues, so back to the changing of the guard idea.
Gianni Infantino set himself a target at the start of the tournament. Not to be derided for his ‘I am Gay, I am Disabled’ speech but to attend every one of the 64 games to be played.
It has never been possible before and likely never will be again and he is making good progress. For the games kicking off at the same time he is leaving at half time and getting a police escort and with all the games taking place in or around Doha, he is on track.
He was pictured at the Germany game last night relaxing in the comfy seats and wearing a pair of white runners with his dark suit. Obviously needs the right gear to make the dash down and then up the executive stairs.
Sport has taken a consistent kicking for allowing itself to be seen as taking money for tournaments from states which do not fit within the Western ideal of a fully inclusive democracy.
And yet it is the very fact of the sport taking place and raising questions on human rights and the way people can live that is bringing the questions into the light.
Unlike the fact that we will use the airlines of these countries when it suits, that we will utilise their natural resources to heat our homes and fuel our transport and still engage at every other level of business and life without a murmur.
The Education City Stadium sits on a 12-acre site that houses overseas campuses for Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown Universtity, Northwestern University, and a host of others.
Maybe a case of pots and kettles for those who cling to the term of ‘sportswashing.’
TODAY’S SPONSOR IN THE SPOTLIGHT – CRYPTO.COM
Cryptocurrency has taken a beating in recent weeks with the collapse of FTX and the reduction in value of different coins but Crypto.com has remained highly visible throughout the tournament.
They have partnered with VISA to create five exclusive NFT’s that have been biddable on with proceeds going to charity.
Crypto.com enjoys high-profile partnerships with numerous top-tier sports and entertainment properties worldwide, including motor sport, MMA, basketball and ice hockey, as well as football.
Most recently, Crypto.com secured a historic naming rights deal in Los Angeles for what is now the Crypto.com Arena and also became the official cryptocurrency exchange and trading platform for the men’s and women’s professional football leagues in Australia.
KEEPING UP WITH THE ACTION
Virgin Media may not have the rights but they have developed a neat interactive search engine to give details of all the games and indeed all the major leagues for football around the world.
You can access the tool and keep bang up to date with what is happening here.