EASM Annual Conference 2015 Workshop Proposal: “The Business and Management of Sport in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) Region”

Sub-theme: Global sport management

Workshop title: The Business and Management of Sport in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) Region


Workshop description

Sport in the MENA region is growing both in prominence and in stature, most potently symbolised by Qatar winning the right to stage the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It is estimated that the global sports industry is currently worth between $480 and $620 billion (A.T. Kearney, 2011[1]), and that revenues generated by the industry will amount to more than $145 million by 2015 (PWC, 2011[2]). The MENA region is witnessing particularly rapid growth, with revenues according to PWC growing by 7%.

Such growth is being driven by, among others things, significant investments in sport made by countries within MENA, and in events being staged and hosted across the region. This has resulted in a series of notable developments; for instance, the International Cricket Council has relocated to Dubai as the country seeks to become an administrative centre for sport; while Abu Dhabi has collaborated with Ferrari to create a sport event destination, in conjunction with its hosting of an F1 Grand Prix.

At the same time, there are several countries in the region that continue to encounter problems with sport. Conflicts in Syria and Palestine pose serious challenges for creating and sustaining sport; infrastructure is often destroyed and social structures are constantly exposed to pressure. Nevertheless, in such situations sport has often become a focus for projects aimed at promoting social cohesion, and peace and reconciliation.

As such, a workshop of the nature proposed embraces both a significant number of countries and a range of issues with which most scholars are already familiar. At one level, the workshop will therefore create an opportunity for existing knowledge to be applied in what for many will be a new context. However, there are also specific contextual factors that are likely to result in sport being viewed in new and different ways. For example, Islamic beliefs and laws sometimes pose unique challenges for sport; geopolitical changes both within and outside the region are marked; while practices such as the Kafala labour system are currently being widely scrutinised.

We therefore present the workshop proposal as being about an area of the world with which many of us are becoming increasingly familiar, which thus far has received scant attention by the majority of sport scholars, but which presents significant opportunities for academics to engage in important and valuable research activity.

N.B. For the purposes of this workshop, scholars might find the World Bank definition of the MENA region to be helpful in preparing submissions: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen (see map above).

The argument

There are several contextual factors that justify why the workshop should be held including:

  • Countries from within the MENA region are making significant investments into European sport e.g. the Abu Dhabi United Group at Manchester City;
  • European countries are taking advantage of business and commercial opportunities in the MENA region e.g. several sport consultancies, such as Repucom, have created a network of offices across the region;
  • Countries in the MENA region are using sport as a means of promoting economic, commercial and industrial development; as a means of promoting active lifestyles and good health; and as a means of fostering social cohesion and the generation of a shared national identity e.g. Qatar through its 2030 Industrial Vision;
  • Sport is being utilised in the MENA region as a means of creating event destinations, building nation brands, extending geo-political influence, and creating goodwill e.g. Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi;
  • The scale of investments in sport being made by some countries in the MENA region is such that they are fundamentally altering the both the balance of power and prevailing structures in world sport e.g. Qatar’s stated intention to host 60 sport mega-events bewteen 2012 and 2022.

As such, we argue that a workshop of this nature is important because:

  • Policy and strategy in the MENA region is beginning to significantly impact upon European sport;
  • European scholars and practitioners need to engage with issues emanating from developments in the MENA region in order to conceive of and understand the challenges being posed;
  • To date there is little work in the academic literature that addresses the nature and influence of sport in the MENA region, particularly in respect of the way it impacts upon Europe;
  • Scholars and practitioners in the MENA region are keen to engage with European scholars in respect of both understanding and addressing challenges faced in the region, and collaborating on joint research programmes;
  • There are clear research opportunities, accompanied by the likelihood of associated funding, open to European academics focusing their research activities on developments in the MENA region.


It is intended that the workshop will consist of two components: one session will consist of paper presentations, of which the expectation is that there will be no less than three and no more than six; the other session will consist of a panel discussion in which scholars who have researched or worked in the MENA region will talk about the business and management of sport, and the opportunities for academic researchers in the region.

Lead convenor: Professor Simon Chadwick

[1] http://www.atkearney.co.uk/paper/-/asset_publisher/dVxv4Hz2h8bS/content/the-sports-market/10192

[2] http://www.pwc.com/en_GX/gx/hospitality-leisure/pdf/changing-the-game-outlook-for-the-global-sports-market-to-2015.pdf

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