UK contractors are being urged to act now to benefit from billions of pounds of investment to prepare Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.
The oil and gas rich desert kingdom will spend an unprecedented amount readying itself to host one of the biggest sporting events on the planet. As well as building nine state-of-the-art stadiums, and substantially renovating three more, Qatar will embark on a $100bn (£64bn) infrastructure programme between now and 2015.
It plans to build a $25 billion rail network, $20bn of roads, an $11bn airport, a $5.5bn deep water seaport and a $1bn crossing to link the new airport with projects in
the northern part of capital Doha.
UK Trade and Investment is urging British firms to bid for the bounty of work. Chief executive Sir Andrew Cahn says UK companies already have the expertise to
deliver world-class sporting events.
Arup UK-MEA sport business leader Nic Merridew authored the UK Trade & Investment report Rising to the Challenge, Positioning UK Sport Business in the Gulf. He
said: “Qatar has been transforming itself into an international centre for sporting excellence, and winning the Fifa 2022 World Cup gives it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become a global player in hosting an event on this scale.
“As one of the world’s fastest growing economies, its ambition should not be underestimated. The Gulf offers a wealth of potential opportunities to UK businesses,
who are recognised leaders in the sports infrastructure sector.”
Mr Merridew believes the key to winning work in Qatar lies in establishing good relationships through a strong local presence. He explained: “You need to
establish a relationship with the governing body and the people who run the country because it’s very much a family structure, which is based on trust. It has taken the likes of Arup and Halcrow a long time to establish themselves.”
The London Olympics has helped shine the spotlight on the UK’s construction expertise. Mr Merridew said he had spoken to the Qatari Olympic Committee
who were “impressed” by the UK construction industry’s handling of the games.
Consultants and engineers will be at the forefront of the gold rush and it is a sector in which the UK enjoys a world class reputation.
Association of Consulting and Engineering chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin said he expected UK firms to do well out of the event. “UK engineers have extensive
experience in delivering worldclass sporting venues, and I am sure that our industry will be able to make a significant contribution.”
Some firms are already operating in Qatar and work on the stadiums is under way. Arup designed a 500-seat test stadium in the country, built to demonstrate to Fifa that solar technology could be used to provide zero carbon air conditioning to keep stadia cool during the country’s summer heat.
Mace is project managing the Foster and Partners-designed Lusail stadium in Al-Daayen, which will host the World Cup final. The upper tier of nine of the
stadia will be removed after the tournament and sent to developing nations, while the lower tiers will remain in Qatar. The Doha Port Stadium will be completely modular and deconstructed following the event.
Contractors have traditionally focused more on neighbouring states including Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Balfour Beatty, Laing O’Rourke, Carillion and Brookfield
are all active in the region.
Mr Merridew said firms should consider developing a Qatari presence if they wished to capitalise on the World Cup.
UKTI’s top tips for winning work in the gulf
The Middle East is currently in a period of reflection following the worldwide economic recession. Research suggests this may lead to an emphasis on better sport programmes for youth and academies, and less focus on building high-profile venues.
Establish a local presence
The importance of being on the ground in the country should not be underestimated. Businesses need to set themselves up in the region with a sponsor or local agent who is familiar with the market.
Understand the culture
To be taken seriously by potential customers, you need to take time to immerse yourself into the culture and buy into the “Middle East way”.
Build up trust and understanding
Arab business people are very honourable and loyal towards one another. Encouraging organisations to change supplier or consultancy services requires time and patience.
The local in-post UKTI representatives can help you understand the market.