November 17 – Trade event organiser Soccerex have cancelled their December 4-5 conference in Doha, Qatar, initially saying on their website that the short notice was due to the blockade of the country by its neighbours. But this doesn’t seem to be the full story.
Qatar were sponsors of the conference that has previously been held in the region in Lebanon and in April 2018 will be hosted in another Asian Football Country (AFC) country in Shenzen, China.
A statement on the Soccerex website suggested that not only was the blockade a reason for cancellation but that it had affected Qatari support for the event.
In fact it is understood that Qatar had paid its sponsorship but that negotiations had broken over the extension of the contract and a demand from Soccerex for a massive fee of £1.75 million. Soccerex’s business model is based on city and venue sponsorship underpinning the conference.
The Soccerex statement blaming the blockade and intimating a lack of local support has now been removed from the Soccerex website, as has any trace that there was an event even planned in Qatar.
Déjà vu, all over again
This isn’t the first time Soccerex has pulled out an event leaving those that have booked flights and hotels to attend, as well as exhibition space, high and dry.
In November 2013, Soccerex cancelled an event scheduled to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, blaming the government for pulling out due to civil unrest.
That sparked a war of words with the Rio state government who said that Soccerex pulled out because of a commercial revenue shortfall.
Rio’s contract with Soccerex, according to the authorities, required the event organiser to fill any funding gap by private means. The city was not prepared to use public money to finance the event further than agreed.
Some 4,500 high-profile delegates and speakers plus a number of leading global brands – many of them key decision makers – had been due to converge on the iconic Maracana stadium in Rio for the summit that had been scheduled to coincide with the World Cup draw in Salvador shortly afterwards.
The Qatar event suggests a similar pattern. Qatar sources say that their sponsorship had already been paid but it is not clear whether they will be pursuing the conference organiser for a refund or damage to reputation.
Meanwhile Soccerex, theoretically, moves on to their next AFC partner in China.
Qatar and its Supreme Committee are also moving swiftly on and, according to sources, are finalising a conference with a global blue-chip media brand for October 2018. Clearly they are not worried about any blockade.
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