Winter World Cup looks more and more a reality
What Sepp Blatter wants he usually gets. So when the FIFA president said that the Qatari World Cup finals will “probably” be in the winter because of the summer heat you can safely begin preparations now for your trip to the Middle East in January 2022.
The decision to move the date of the first World Cup in the Middle East, which first needs to be ratified by FIFA’s executive committee, is going to have huge ramifications on club and international soccer up to five years before the 2022 tournament as well as on other sports.
The highly complex and crowded sporting calendar is designed to involve as little overlap between the major sports so that each receive the maximum exposure, and thus sponsorship, from audiences around the globe.
We wait to hear what the International Olympic Committee (IOC) make of the prospect of the World Cup being switched to the same time as their 2022 Winter Olympics.
Blatter’s strongest hint that the tournament would be moved was coupled with a dig at the IOC when he said that they ran their finances like a housewife and claimed they had no transparency.
So far the criticism towards FIFA for deciding to take the World Cup to the tiny gas-rich Gulf country has been almost as fierce as the heat experienced here in the summer months of June and July.
Blatter, though, continues to ride out the storm and he saw his chances of a fourth term as FIFA boss boosted at the AFC Congress last week when his ally Prince Ali of Jordan was voted on to the FIFA ExCo at the expense of his long term critic Chung Mong-joon, which damaged both the South Korean’s and AFC president Mohammed Bin Hammam’s chances of a potential bid against Blatter later this year.
Qatar, who are still putting together their organising committee for 2022, remain quiet on a possible switch of date but rumours in Doha at the Asian Cup this week suggest they would be happy to let FIFA take the decision on when the tournament should be staged.
The calls for a first January World Cup came immediately after Qatar won the vote in Zurich last month with speculation circulating in Doha this week at the AFC Congress that FIFA had already decided beforehand that should Qatar win they would host the tournament in winter.
In defence of the switch of date, it has been said that many of the European Leagues have a winter break so the disruption would be minimal — but that is a naïve thought.
Currently the World Cup features 32 teams and the finals take a month to complete but who is to say we won’t have more teams gaining entry in 11 years time as FIFA continually demonstrate their ability to move the goalposts.
As it stands, the European club seasons would probably have to be postponed for at least two months to allow national teams to have their customary pre-tournament camps and friendly matches.
The qualifying tournaments in the six confederations would have to start at least six months earlier and would thus have an impact on the regional tournaments such as the 2020 European Championships, 2019 Asian Cup, 2019 and 2021 Copa Americas and African Nations Cup and their qualifying matches.
Effectively both domestic and international competitions would be affected for perhaps as long as four or five years before the World Cup takes place so that their calendars could be gradually adjusted to eventually accommodate the Qatari showcase.
FIFA though, continue to point out they have 11 years to address the situation but with so many deals and manoeuvres to be done over the next few years the sporting world waits in anticipation to see how it will be affected. One thing is certain, it most certainly will be.