Qatar continues to confound

FIFA’s bidding process for its 2022 tourney raised eyebrows, but its endless fumbling of the situation in Qatar has become comical

By Alan Clark
Exclusive to TRRT

From the very first tournament in 1930 with hosts Uruguay lifting the trophy the FIFA World Cup has grown and grown to become the most prestigious soccer competition on the planet.

Since 1998, 32 nations from every continent have faced each other in the World Cup Finals hosted by a different country each year –  a cup that has always been synonymous with sunshine given it is played in the summer months.

Qatar_2022_LogoThe 2022 episode of the World Cup will perhaps take that into overdrive however. As many sports fans will be aware, FIFA awarded this to Qatar several years ago and since then many have questioned the legitimacy of the process and of the decision making.

FIFA’s grandiosely-titled taskforce has recommended that it be played in the months of November and December – a recommendation that anyone able to read a weather report could have come up with.

Temperatures in Qatar during the usual World Cup months of June and July reach dangerous levels, so much so that agreement has been reached that football cannot be played or watched for that length of time.

That has been one of the biggest gripes that commentators and supporters alike have had with the decision to host it in that region.

Other possible dates to host the tournament were January-February – which would clash with the Winter Olympics – and April-May – which coincides with the beginning of Ramadan at the start of April.

FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke said the “one solution” was November and December despite this being smack in the middle of the majority of the league seasons in which the European clubs amongst other regions play.

Not to forget the proximity to Christmas, an issue that the English Premier League will be keeping a close eye on given their thirst for busy fixture periods in the festive season.

If this is to be FIFA’s final decision, clubs and leagues will have to find a workable solution to accommodate it. It’s the World Cup after all.

However, don’t expect clubs to roll over and forget about it. Chairman of the European Club Association, Karl-Heinz Rumminegge gave everyone a flavour of what to expect when he stated, “the European clubs and leagues cannot be expected to bear the costs for such a rescheduling.

“We expect the clubs to be compensated for the damage that a final decision would cause.”

Given it’s a global competition and effects all participating nations (including qualifying stages) and their respective leagues, it could see similar demands emanate from other continents, not least North America.

A winter World Cup will not effect MLS as the campaign will end in October, but it will mean the World Cup will have to compete for airtime with the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football.

Add into the already fairly messy mix the recently awarded television rights to FOX Sports for the 2026 World Cup.

This took many in the sports media by surprise, as FIFA had not opened it up for the usual process of bidding by broadcasting companies and 2026 had not been on the agenda yet.

Given the news came just days before this recommendation to make 2022 a winter tournament, was this TV deal a sweetener for FOX as it will lose out on revenues with the tournament competing for advertising dollars against the NFL?

Questions are being asked of FIFA left, right and center.

All things considered, the notion of a World Cup in Qatar is completely laughable. The country is building entire cities from whole cloth to host the event, and human rights’ groups have repeatedly raised red flags over the treatment of laborers working to build the facilities.

Looking at the options above, it really makes you ponder why on earth the world governing body deemed the country fit enough to host its premier kick-about.

Fans across the globe are unhappy. Clubs are unhappy. Football associations are unhappy.

Perhaps the only set of people smiling here are certain individuals at FIFA and those related parties in Qatar.

Alan Clark is a freelance journalist based in Edinburgh, U.K. Find him on Twitter @_aldo93.

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