The sale of official hospitality packages for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is due to begin tomorrow ©Getty Images

The sale of official hospitality packages for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar gets under way tomorrow (February 1), amid early signs that demand promises to be strong, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Match Hospitality, the appointed agents are said to have committed to record World Cup sales targets, auguring well for the final sales total.

According to Jaime Byrom, chairman of Match, which was appointed exclusive hospitality rights-holder for the tournament back in 2011, agents have committed to "in excess of $260 million (£190 million/€213 million)" of sales targets.

That figure compares with commitments of $219 million (£160 million/€180 million) at the same point in the Russia 2018 marketing process – an increase of some 20 per cent, notwithstanding the current pandemic.

Match appoints agents who secure exclusive rights relating to the competition across a total of more than 70 territories.

Having proceeded with the invitation to tender in spite of the pandemic, Byrom said Match was "very happy to find that the appeal is sufficiently strong to have managed to secure commitments from our agents that surpass previous World Cups – something we may not have expected."

Hospitality ticket prices for Qatar 2022 start at less than $1,000 (£730/€820), rising to in excess of $2.6 million (£1.9 million/€2.13 million) for a 40-seat suite in the Lusail Stadium where the final is due to be staged on December 18 2022.

The sales brochure indicates that a hospitality package for all 10 matches earmarked for the Lusail venue, including a quarter-final, a semi-final and the final, is available at prices ranging from $14,350 (£10,475/€11,770) in so-called "Match Club" to $74,200 (£54,165/€60,845) in the top-of-the-range "Pearl Lounge."

Match was appointed exclusive hospitality rights-holder for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in a deal said to cover a financial guarantee for FIFA of $300 million (£219 million/€246 million) for the entire period, plus a profit share.

FIFA financial reports have since made clear that the base price for Russia 2018 was $140 million (£102 million/€115 million), implying a figure of $160 million (£117 million/€131 million) for Qatar 2022.

Hospitality sales relating to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia totalled $377 million ©Getty Images
Hospitality sales relating to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia totalled $377 million ©Getty Images

Hospitality sales relating to the 2018 World Cup finally totalled $377 million (£275 million/€309 million), exceeding the initial sales target by 72 per cent.

If Qatar 2022 achieves the same ratio, it suggests a final sales figure of some $450 million (£330 million/€370 million) might be in prospect.

Russia 2018 was nowhere near as successful on the hospitality front as Brazil 2014, however.

This achieved total sales of a massive $665 million (£485 million/€545 million) - not far off four times the initial sales target of $178 million (£130 million/€146 million).

The success in South America appears to have been reflected in the profit share earned by FIFA.

The football body’s 2014 financial report noted that it was "entitled to an additional payment in the amount of $61 million (£44.5 million/€50 million) for the 2014 World Cup."

The 2018 financial report puts revenue from hospitality and accommodation rights relating to that year’s tournament at $148.3 million (£108.3 million/€121.6 million), implying a profit share of just $8.3 million (£6 million/€6.8 million).

"In Brazil, we started with a bang," said Byrom.

"There was an explosion of demand never before seen in sport."

In Russia, by contrast, hospitality sales started slowly, not helped by a sharp devaluation in the ruble.

Information circulated by Match suggests that, after Russia itself, the biggest national markets for Russia 2018 hospitality packages were Mexico, China, Argentina, the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Qatar, India and Saudi Arabia.

The start of the marketing programme underlines how, for all the grief and economic disruption it has caused, the pandemic’s timing has been kinder seemingly to FIFA than the International Olympic Committee, owner of the other main global sports mega-event.

By the time the first ball is kicked in Qatar, the IOC is aiming to deliver both a Summer and a Winter Olympic Games.