By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News, Johannesburg
Danny Jordaan hopes the World Cup will enhance business and skills
Football fans around the world will be looking forward to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after the draw in Durban on Sunday.
Plans and schedules will be made, hotel rooms and flights booked, as the long march to the 19th Fifa competition finals begins.
But away from the playing field South Africa is making equally big strides in the world of football business, with the hosting of the first ever Soccerex soccer business-to-business event in the continent.
More than 5,000 delegates from the international football fraternity, along with over 300 exhibitors from 90 countries, are expected to attend the first South African edition of the world's biggest business-to-business football exhibition.
As well as organising a smooth and impressive tournament, South Africa hopes that the World Cup will be a catalyst for the nation's economy - as the sport, tourism, transport, telecoms and construction sectors all receive a boost.
Soccerex will also give South Africa an international platform to showcase the country as a destination for investment and major events.
'Opportunity for Africa'
South Africa's 2010 Local Organising Committee chairman Danny Jordaan has said he sees the competition as nothing less than a chance to "construct a new economic and business environment for the continent", using South Africa as a catalyst.
"It is an opportunity for Africa, not only in terms of creating new infrastructure," he says.
"It is a chance to enhance skills levels across the African continent."
And hosting Soccerex in the three-year run-up to the 2010 event, after it was held in Dubai for five years, can only help attract the many football industry sectors and the attached skills they can bring towards the country.
Stadium designers and construction firms, television and telecommunications experts, as well as security, advertising, and marketing firms among others, will all be in attendance.
Exhibitors and delegates will have the opportunity to network with suppliers, manufacturers, key buyers and decision-makers in the industry.
The global football industry will be discussed at Soccerex
Fifa resident Sepp Blatter will officially open the event, and football clubs including AC Milan, Arsenal, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Hearts, Aston Villa, Ajax, St Etienne, Roma, Barcelona, Kaizer Chiefs, Liverpool, Manchester United, Orlando Pirates and Real Madrid will be in attendance.
Brazilian World Cup winning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, now in charge of South Africa's national football team, will also be on hand to officially open the exhibition halls.
It is hoped that Soccerex will bring millions of rand into South Africa's economy, as well as providing worldwide media coverage for the country.
Soccerex boss Duncan Revie said the organisers were "delighted to offer sponsors, delegates and exhibitors the opportunity to experience the reality, professionalism and pride of South Africa over the next three years leading up to the 2010 Fifa World Cup".
Clubs, federations and sponsors from all over the world convene to present their business ideas and commercial strategies to a global audience.
Meanwhile, Mr Blatter will be closely watched for any major pronouncements on the world game.
And, together with Fifa, football administrators from Europe Africa, Asia and the Middle East will be in attendance, as will representatives of the FA Premier League.
Workshops featuring some of the biggest names in the world football industry will be passing on useful advice to delegates.
It is hoped 2010 will give an economic boost to the whole country
Issues that will be under the spotlight include unearthing young talent, competing commercially with the world elite, the US sports business model, and the future value of media rights.
There will also be an examination of the World Cup opportunities that will be available to Gauteng Province, whose capital is Johannesburg.
Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa said Soccerex and the World Cup would bring thousands of international visitors to the province, helping it to market and position itself as a globally competitive region.
"They give us an opportunity to showcase the immense opportunities that Gauteng, and indeed the country as a whole, have as a destination for tourism, investment and other major events," he said.
The South African government is underwriting the conference as a way of selling itself to the football business community ahead of the World Cup in 2010.
And all eyes will be on Danny Jordaan when he takes the stage with Richard Caborn, England's 2018 bid ambassador, to discuss successfully bidding for a World Cup.
Mr Caborn may pick up some useful advice, which, if successfully implemented, would spare England as hosts the difficulty of having to actually qualify for 2018 on the pitch.
There are huge construction projects ahead, including stadiums
And, given the backlash after England's recent defeat to Croatia and subsequent sacking of manager Steve McClaren, delegates may be interested to hear FA' head of communications, Adrian Bevington, talk about successfully "managing communications strategies".
However the focus of attention will be South Africa, and the progress it is making towards staging a memorable and successful World Cup, both on and off the playing field, in three years time.
And event organiser Danny Jordaan is aware that the event must benefit the wider society.
"Infrastructure cannot be directed only at 90 minutes of football, it must be integrated as part of an economic strategy for sustainable growth beyond 2010," he says.