How FIFA Makes Money: Global Football and Licensing

Men’s and Women’s World Cup competitions are major global sporting events

FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or International Federation of Association Football) was formed in 1904 to oversee, organize, and promote a growing number of international football (soccer) competitions. Because the sport is played in more than 200 countries, it has arguably the largest fan following of any sport around the globe.

According to the official website, FIFA is “modernising football to be global, accessible, and inclusive in all aspects. Not just on one or two continents, but everywhere.”

FIFA is a nonprofit organization, invests most of its income back into the development of the game, and has tremendous earning power. Most of these earnings come from organizing and marketing major international competitions, with the most popular being the Men’s and Women’s World Cup, each of which happens every four years.

Other competitions, such as the continental championships and the FIFA Confederations Cup, are also quite popular. For the 2022 World Cup, FIFA generated $7.6 billion in revenue between 2019 and 2022.

Key Takeaways

  • FIFA makes money through the sale of television, marketing, and licensing rights for football events like the World Cup.
  • Infrastructure costs for World Cup events are left up to host countries, keeping FIFA’s expenses low.
  • FIFA generated $7.6 billion in revenue between 2019 and 2022.
  • As a nonprofit organization, FIFA invests the majority of its earnings back into the development of the sport of football (soccer).

FIFA’s Business Model

The World Cup is not only one of the biggest sports events in the world but also a major source of FIFA’s revenue. FIFA gains a lot from this and other events by selling television rights, marketing rights, and licensing rights, as well as revenue from ticket sales.

Economies of the World Cup

FIFA is the sole body charged with organizing the Men’s World Cup and the Women’s World Cup, and as such retains access to all of the revenues. It’s common for these events to generate billions of dollars in revenue. The World Cup host country is decided upon by a bidding process, and it is a fierce competition. Qatar hosted the Men’s World Cup in 2022, while the United States, Canada, and Mexico have been chosen to host the event for its 23rd edition in 2026.

Organizing such a huge and popular event requires a lot of investment, especially in building and enhancing world-class infrastructure. Thus, the country that wins the bid attracts a lot of interest from investors, which can help to boost the economy

The Men’s World Cup was held between Nov. 20 and Dec. 18, 2022, in Qatar. The Women’s World Cup will be held between July 20 and Aug. 20, 2023, in Australia and New Zealand


With so many countries vying to host the World Cup, FIFA naturally gets a big bargaining chip and gets away with dictating most of the terms. FIFA does not invest in any infrastructure created for the event; the onus for that lies solely on the host nation.

FIFA pays the local organizing committee for organizing and conducting the World Cup. It also pays prize money to the participating nations, accounts for the travel and accommodation of players, and supports staff and match officials. Also, it makes available for the host country a FIFA World Cup legacy fund to be used in the future for the development of the game in the country.

FIFA’s World Cup expenses are relatively low. It covers the cost of organizing and conducting the tournament, including paying prize money to participants, but it isn’t responsible for ensuring that the right infrastructure is in place. That big expense lies with the host nation.

Apart from the cost related to FIFA events, FIFA’s major costs also involve development expenses, personnel expenses, and a financial assistance program.

FIFA records its revenue in a multi-year cycle leading up to World Cups. In the last cycle, covering the period from 2019 to 2022, FIFA reported revenue of $7.6 billion. While the majority of this revenue came from television broadcasting rights, other sources of income included licensing rights and marketing rights.

FIFA’s Television Rights

Of the $7.6 billion in revenue that FIFA generated from 2019 to 2022, 44.7% (about $3.4 billion) came from television broadcasting rights. FIFA sells licensing rights to television stations and broadcasting institutions, permitting them to broadcast football games and related events in particular regions. Because football is immensely popular throughout the world, competition among broadcasters for licensing rights can be fierce.

In a bidding war between ESPN and 21st Century Fox Inc. (FOXA), FOX outbid Disney’s (DIS) ESPN and paid more than $400 million to FIFA for television rights through the 2022 Men’s World Cup. Meta Inc. (META), formerly Facebook, X Corp. (formerly Twitter), and Snap Inc. (SNAP) all offered millions of dollars to FOX for highlight rights.

FIFA’s Marketing Rights

The next most significant source of income for FIFA is the sale of marketing rights, which totaled $1.8 billion in the 2019 to 2022 cycle leading up to the 2022 Men’s World Cup. This is an especially impressive figure given that much of this cycle included a highly publicized corruption scandal involving numerous high-level leaders of FIFA.

There are four World Cup sponsorship levels: FIFA Partners, FIFA World Cup Sponsors, Regional Supporters, and National Supporters. FIFA Partners help develop the FIFA brand and engage in corporate social responsibility. FIFA World Cup Sponsors are given the rights to promote their brand at the World Cup. Regional and National Supporters are headquartered in various regions and/or the host nation and have the rights to promote their brands within those areas.

FIFA’s Licensing Rights

FIFA generated $769 million in licensing rights for the 2019 to 2022 cycle. This revenue comes from the sale of brand licensing contracts, royalty payments, and other similar sources.

FIFA’s Hospitality Rights and Ticket Sales

The final significant component of FIFA’s revenue stream consists of hospitality and accommodation rights, as well as ticket sales. Notably, revenue from ticketing rights is 100% owned by a direct subsidiary of FIFA. From 2019 to 2022, FIFA reported $949 million in hospitality rights and ticket sales revenue.

Tickets were in high demand for the 2022 Men’s World Cup in Qatar, with the top 10 purchasing countries consisting of Qatar, the United States, Saudi Arabia, England, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, France, Brazil, and Germany.

FIFA’s Future Plans

As long as football remains an incredibly popular sport with a diverse fan base spread around the globe, FIFA will likely continue to generate massive revenue from the World Cup and other major events.

FIFA’s future plans involve continuing to support the development of the sport through various reinvestment projects and—particularly in light of the corruption scandal in recent years—developing its host bidding process in a transparent and objective way, ensuring adherence to compliance programs, and promoting gender equality in football.

FIFA’s Expenses

FIFA’s 2019 to 2022 expenses of $6.3 billion can be broadly divided among the primary categories of competition/events ($2.5 billion), development/education ($2.6 billion), football governance ($147 million), governance/administration ($767 million), and marketing/tv broadcasting ($269 million).

FIFA’s Key Challenges

There have been times when FIFA was charged with mismanagement and malpractice over the bidding process for the World Cup. The president and other executives who were named in the 2015 controversy were arrested on charges of corruption.

Over its history, only nine people have headed the organization, which begs the question of transparency and good governance. Although the organization led a highly successful 2022 Men’s World Cup, questions about the possibility of continuing or future corruption remain.

Nonetheless, with its little-to-lose business strategy, FIFA is turning out impressive earnings numbers.

How Much Money Does FIFA Earn?

For the period between 2019 and 2022, FIFA had revenues of $7.6 billion against total costs of $6.3 billion.

Does FIFA Give Money to Host Countries?

No. Countries bid to host the World Cup and then need to invest taxpayer money or funds secured through loans to ensure that the right infrastructure is in place to host it.

How Much Was the 2022 Men’s World Cup Worth?

FIFA allocated $440 million in prize money, with the winner of the 2022 Men’s World Cup receiving a record $42 million.

Does FIFA Make More Money Than the National Football League (NFL)?

No. While the World Cup may have more viewers, it only occurs every four years. The NFL takes place every year, and events like the Super Bowl bring in a lot of money. The entire NFL generated $18 billion in revenue during the 2022 season, which is a lot more than the $7.6 billion that FIFA made between 2019 and 2022.

The Bottom Line

FIFA, the governing body of football (or soccer, as it’s known in the U.S.), has a great business model that’s mainly based around the World Cup—the globe’s biggest sporting event. It rakes in billions of dollars, primarily from TV and marketing rights, without having to invest in or take on the financial risk of building infrastructure for competitions.

And because it is a nonprofit organization, this money is mostly reinvested back into the game. While not without controversy, the benefits that FIFA brings to the global economy and the sport it governs are huge.

Article Sources
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