Purpose: This paper reflects on recent events in the global football landscape and their implications for the Middle East, especially in their ambitious aspiration to be the future destination of the sport.
Design/methodology/approach: By drawing on a mixture of interviews, personal observation and a documentary analysis of scholarly papers on sports marketing in general and comparable "small-time" football leagues in England, the study takes on a qualitative approach.
Findings: Even though the tiny Gulf state of Qatar has "controversially" won the hosting rights of the greatest football event in the world (i.e. FIFA 2022), the FIFA world ranking of the State puts it just within the top 100 global footballing nations (ranked no. 95 as at November 2011). Its sibling, the UAE, fares even worse. However both countries have made the most investments in the sport of football in recent years.
Research limitations/implications: This paper does not place emphasis on futures studies per se, but does, in any case, suggest how the Middle East may be shaping their future in football along the six-pillars identified in the literature, which could also become a potential area for future research enquiry.
Practical implications: Countries with established leagues, including Australia, England and the USA recently lost the FIFA World Cup hosting rights to Russia for 2018 and "little known" (in football terms) Qatar for 2022. All these have implications for the future of football in the Middle East, and this paper investigates the sustainability of the discourse and its implication for the global sport, not the least in the Middle East.
Originality/value: With recent developments in global football, it is useful to understand how West Asia in particular has responded to the challenges and/or concerns of their legitimacy. This discussion is scant in the literature and this study draws attention to this trend considering the millions of dollars that have been spent by governments to improve their world ranking. Whether these investments confer on the Middle East the title of "future football destination" is a matter open to debate. This is exactly where the pioneering effort of this paper lies.