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2022 World Cup: Sports Fans Gulp Over Host Nation Qatar’s Human Rights Record  

Soccer ball with World Cup counties.It was not without some controversy that Qatar was selected as host of the 2022 World Cup.

The country has been accused of human rights violations including most recently providing low pay and dangerous working conditions for migrant workers who have been building the stadiums and infrastructure necessary to accommodate the games. Asked if such knowledge lessened their interest in the event, 63 percent of avid sports fans, and 51 percent of sports fans say yes, with only 25 percent of avids and 28 percent of sports fans saying no.

Among the general U.S. population, 41 percent say interest is lessened because of the World Cup being situated in Qatar (30 percent said their interest isn’t lessened, perhaps in some way reflecting that this year the U.S. men’s national team is back in the competition).

These were the findings of a Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted this last month among 1,514 adults across the country. The poll features a national representative sample weighted on U.S. Census Bureau figures for gender, age, ethnicity, education, income and geography and has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percent.

FIFA Ethical?

FIFA is the world governing body responsible for the World Cup tournament. Respondents were asked if they believe FIFA is an ethically centered organization. Among avid fans, 48 percent said yes (33 percent no), among sports fans 32 percent said yes (35 percent no) and among the general population, 22 percent said yes (34 percent no). The rest said they did not know or held no opinion.

“While these numbers show the perception among Americans that FIFA is an ethical organization, I expect these numbers to change as we get closer to the tournament.” said Seton Hall Marketing Professor and Poll Methodologist Daniel Ladik. “The increase in interest will bring an increase in scrutiny and we in the States will begin to see some of the stories challenging FIFA’s ethics and the choice of Qatar as the location of this year’s World Cup.”

“As a worldwide sport governing body, FIFA continues to fail its fan base with demonstrated, unethical and corrupt leadership,” said Professor Charles Grantham, Director of the Center for Sport Management within Seton Hall’s Stillman School of Business, which sponsors the Poll. “In time, it will effect the integrity of the tournament.”

Interest Jumps in U.S.

With the United States men’s soccer team having qualified for participation in the 2022 World Cup for the first time in eight years, interest in the international tournament has taken a notable jump among U.S. fans. Today, asked if they planned on watching, 39 percent of sports fans, 58 percent of avid fans, and 25 percent of the general population say they do.

Before the U.S. National Team qualified these numbers were lower. When asked about viewing plans in March, prior to the U.S. qualifying, 34 percent of sports fans, 49 percent of avid fans and 21 percent of the general population expressed interest in watching the 2022 World Cup. With just eight intervening weeks between polls, these are significant increases in interest. The March poll was conducted March 11-14. The U.S. qualified on March 30; 2022 World Cup play will begin November 21.

Of course, soccer is not America’s first sport, as it is in most nations of the world, and there are still many who have no stated plans to watch – 65 percent of the general population, 56 percent of sports fans and 45 percent of avid fans said “no” to “will you be watching?"

15% Jump in Interest for Avid Sports Fans

Chronologically we can infer that the rise in interest in the U.S. corresponds with the inclusion of the U.S. Men’s National Team. The degree of interest also spiked. Asked specifically if the inclusion of a U.S. team has made one more interested in watching, 63 percent of avid fans, 46 percent of sports fans and 30 percent of the general public agreed. When asked in March (prior to qualification) whether the presence of a U.S. team would make them more interested, 48 percent of avid fans, 34 percent of sports fans and 21 percent of the general public said yes. Actual qualification corresponds to an increase of interest among avid fans of 15 percent, 12 percent for fans and 9 percent for the general public.

Canada and Mexico?

The American public clearly has a strong support for the U.S. team, but there is support as well for neighboring countries. Among avid fans, 70 percent say they will be rooting for the U.S., with nine percent saying Mexico and eight percent saying Canada. Among sports fans it is 62 percent U.S., eight percent Mexico and five percent Canada, and among the general population, it is 48 percent U.S., six percent Mexico and four percent Canada.

Ukraine

The potential presence of a team representing Ukraine also has people interested in the Cup. Asked if they would be more interested in watching because the Ukraine is playing, 57 percent of avid fans said yes (33 percent no), 40 percent of sports fans said yes (also 40 percent no), and 28 percent of the general population (43 percent no).

Rising Popularity, Participation for Soccer in the U.S.

The relative popularity of soccer in the U.S. may be attributable to participation in the sport. Whereas 27 percent of the general population said they had played soccer on a team or in a league, 47 percent of those with children say their kids have played.

Q6a. Including your childhood, have you ever played soccer on any team or league (recreationally or competitively)?

Lifetime Soccer Participation
N=1,514 General Population Sports Fan Non Fan Avid Fan Casual Fan
Yes 27% 37% 14% 54% 27%
No 61% 55% 69% 41% 64%
Don't know/No opinion 12% 8% 17% 5% 9%

Q6b. If you have children, have they played soccer on any team or league (recreationally or competitively)?

Childhood Soccer Participation
N=398 General Population Sports Fan Non Fan Avid Fan Casual Fan
Yes 47% 57% 21% 62% 52%
No 45% 38% 60% 36% 41%
Don't know/No opinion 8% 5% 19% 2% 7%

Paid Subscriptions to Watch Among Soccer Fans

Of those who describe themselves as fans of the beautiful game, 50 percent say they subscribe to one or more media services in order to watch premium soccer – that number rises to 71 percent for avid fans.

Do you subscribe to any streaming or cable services that require additional payment with the intent of watching soccer? e.g. ESPN+ for Bundesliga, Peacock for English Premier League, Paramount+ for UEFA Champions League and NWSL etc.

Paid Subscriptions to Watch Soccer
N=730 General Population Sports Fan Non Fan Avid Fan Casual Fan
Yes 42% 50% 14% 71% 33%
No 50% 43% 75% 26% 58%
Don't know/No opinion 8% 7% 11% 3% 9%

Questions with charted breakdowns are available in an online version of this release at http://blogs.shu.edu/sportspoll/

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