As if there wasn’t enough scandal and furore after the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, FIFA have turned full circle and switched the tournament to the winter of that year.
Even putting aside the disruption to European football, there is one fundamental consequence of such a decision reversal, and it is the mockery that has been made of the bidding process. The world governing body has well and truly moved the goalposts because those nations originally bidding to stage the 2022 World Cup finals; Japan, South Korea, Australia, Qatar and the United States did so on the historical basis that it was a summer tournament.
A major factor in Qatar being awarded the tournament – if suggestions of bribery and corruption are put aside – was the assurance of the hosting nation that concerns over the 40-50 degree temperatures in the summer would be allayed by cooling technology that would be in place by 2022. At the time of writing, the failure to verify that such technology would be in place AND work properly would seem to be the major factor in switching the finals to November and December. Indeed another FIFA Task Force, committee to you and me, came to a staggering conclusion and cited “consistently hot conditions” in the summer and recommended a switch to winter because of “the high risk option of playing in summer”.
The only possible deduction from that earth shattering conclusion is that the cooling technology was deemed insufficient and, presumably, had that information been available during the bidding process, Qatar would not have been awarded the finals tournament.
Naturally the European heavyweight leagues, notably our own Premier League, jumped up and down complaining of the disruption to the domestic programme. Not sure if I missed anything here but opposition to a winter switch seemed to be almost exclusively British! Even Bayern Munich chief Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, supported the switch to winter 2022, with one caveat;
“It should be a one-off change to the football calendar.”
Interestingly, German football has a winter break. Many other European leagues do likewise. We don’t have one in England, though it does crop up as a debate on an almost annual basis. Hull City manager Steve Bruce, often the voice of common sense and reason, said.
“This will be a great opportunity for the Premier League to introduce a winter break”.
Bruce believes a break for the players over the Christmas period would in turn benefit national sides, not just England. He added.
“France went into the 2002 finals shattered when trying to defend their World Cup. We have got plenty of time to adjust to a winter World Cup, plenty of time for players to adjust also.”
Jim Boyce, FIFA vice president, added his weight to that particular viewpoint, saying.
“Yes, it would cause a lot of disruption but it is nearly eight years away and people would have enough time to make it work.”
The debate will no doubt roll on with more committees and reports between now and 2022 but I think the best comment of all, with regard to FIFA switching the World Cup to November and December 2022, came from Football Association chairman Greg Dyke, who said, “November/December was the best of the bad options.”
I agree. Is there any real reason why tradition and the status quo cannot be tweaked a little to provide a one-off winter World Cup? I don’t think so, though there will doubtless be lobbies of support and opposition all the way through to Qatar, that’s football.