Winter World Cup in Qatar draws closer
Published: 30.06.13 / Written by: David Gold
The prospect of a winter World Cup has loomed ever since Qatar was controversially awarded the rights to stage the 2022 competition back in December 2010.
Back then the decision to award Qatar the tournament was hugely controversial. A desert nation which FIFA had been warned was pragmatically difficult to give the competition to, and one which has almost no football heritage. Not to mention their attitudes towards women, homosexuality and perhaps most pressing for FIFA, alcohol, given the Qataris relationship with the drink that world football’s governing body promote in one of their sponsorship deals.
So as it is, since Qatar was given the event, we have lurked ever closer to the competition being staged, as many fear, in the winter. Then again, many fear it being in the summer. Comments have slowly been made indicating that a change will be made. UEFA President Michel Platini, who could well be FIFA President by the time they have to make a decision on the matter in 2016, is the most enthusiastic supporter, despite admitting he voted for Qatar to stage the competition. Sepp Blatter, the current FIFA chief, has indicated a willingness to change the tournament, the Qatari organising committee have seemingly pushed the ball into FIFA’s court, and officials have spoken up in favour, including Karl Heinz Rummenigge, the chief executive of the powerful European Clubs Association, which represents 207 leading clubs across the continent.
So the dance is underway already towards a dramatic change to a winter World Cup. This could have huge ramifications for world football. The calendar will have to be changed and European leagues adjusted to allow a three month break in the middle, to allow for a build up to and recovery from the competition, as well as the five week tournament itself. Three years could be affected in the international match calendar in all. And then there is the European Championship qualifiers, which usually start just after the World Cup. If the Qatar event waits until winter those qualifiers will presumably be underway already.
And then there is the issue of whether nations who lost to Qatar will contest the matter legally. Australia, the United States and Japan were amongst those beaten by the Qataris to host the 2022 event. None will be happy about FIFA changing the date of the event, and could well challenge the case in court, and claim that a re-vote needs to take place to approve the measure.
The decision seemed straightforward enough at the time. The impossibly rich gulf state wooed football’s power brokers and walked off with the great prize. However it has created a ticking time bomb threatening to explode. The practicalities of hosting a World Cup in the country are so difficult that it seems as though they will have to radically alter world football’s calendar to fit it in. Fireworks lie ahead.