How the world cup got Chrome River thinking about expenses

After four years of (im)patient waiting from the world’s soccer fans, the World Cup has finally started today. Teams from 32 countries – and hundreds of thousands of fans and journalists from countless more – have descended on Russia for 31 days of joga bonito.

However, in addition to marveling at the players’ exploits seeing participants from all six continents competing made my mind spin in terms of the sheer logistics when it comes to the expenses that each team must incur, and how these will all get reimbursed into the currencies used across those nations once everyone returns next week. It’s truly a feat of global expense management on an epic scale. In addition to the 23 players, each team has dozens of coaches, doctors, physiotherapists chefs, kit (i.e. uniform) managers, and so on, in their entourage. On top of that, delegations from over 200 national Football Associations converge in Moscow before the kick-off to decide who will host the 2026 edition.

While obviously each country’s football association handles the reimbursement of its own delegation’s travel and out-of-pocket expenses, the thought of having a single global expense management system for processing the expenses of all players, coaches and support staff is mind-boggling. How would I hypothetically go about setting up a workable program?

For a start, travel planning is a major challenge. Although each team’s home base and flights for the first three games/two weeks is set, after that, things start to get a little crazy. Teams could be on a flight home if they don’t progress, or if they do progress, their flights and accommodation are difficult to predict, as their next destination depends where they placed in their group. As there are four elimination rounds after the group stage, planning is very ad-hoc, so there needs to be major flexibility.

Consider the stats: Upward of 2,000 users, across 32 countries, being reimbursed to 27 currencies. On top of this, some teams played warm-up games in other countries before arriving in Russia, so it may not just be a single currency (the ruble) or tax jurisdiction being reimbursed from. All these countries may also have different regulations for how sales and other taxes are handled for expense reimbursement and VAT reclaim.

So, given all these, in my hypothetical daydream (or maybe it’s a nightmare) of having to handle expenses for all attendees in Russia, what would I need to consider?

Automate it: Having to manually process around 2,000 expense reports, all submitted over a very short timeframe, with receipts stapled to spreadsheets would be the ultimate administrative nightmare. Finding an expense management solution to automate it would be critical, otherwise some players may be competing in Qatar 2022 by the time they get reimbursed!

Does it speak everyone’s language? While many top players play overseas and may have at least a passing grasp of English or Spanish (the two leagues with the most overseas players), many from lower-ranked nations may only speak their native tongue). Therefore, I’d need to find a system that supports multiple languages. A solution that can handle almost all European languages, plus key Asian languages such as Korean, Russian and Japanese means that you can cover the first or second language of practically every attendee. 

Ensure it supports all currencies: The most critical element is that all delegations’ home currencies are supported. Above that, the solution also needs to be able to calculate reimbursements for when the expenses are incurred. While most players are only in Russia for a couple of weeks, support staff may need to be there for weeks before, so the ability to calculate exchange rates on the day of the expense is essential for correct reimbursement. The solution must also be able to deal with any tax compliance regulations for the countries you’ve visited.

Make it easy for everyone: Many of these players will only ever need to submit one expense report, so any solution needs to be intuitive and something that can be picked up easily. After all, these guys are somewhat preoccupied and don't have time to learn complicated systems! I also need something that won’t cause issues when used on different devices. Players and their support staff will likely have a wide variety of different phones and operating system versions. Therefore, I’ll need a solution that gives the same experience across all devices. This means that an app won’t work, as it could throw up all sorts of compatibility issues. Therefore, I should look for a solution that is accessed via a web app on a browser using responsive design, as it will give a consistent experience.

Read the full article on Chrome River's website.

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