Friday 17 November 2017

Qatar debacle will not impact on Ireland's football climate

John Delaney has kept a low press profile since his ballad-singing so a few questions about Qatar at an event with a different target audience to a regular football gig was safe territory
John Delaney has kept a low press profile since his ballad-singing so a few questions about Qatar at an event with a different target audience to a regular football gig was safe territory
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Migrant workers are dying on the job to ensure that a country where homosexuality is illegal is ready to stage the World Cup.

Placed in that context, upheaval to the club football calendar is a minor quibble compared to the scandalous awarding of the greatest show in sport to Qatar in 2022.

In Ireland, there will be no upheaval at all so yesterday's news will not be causing sleepless nights.

The only change will be to the holiday plans of travelling fans if the FAI's then manager succeeds in leading the senior team to the tournament.

That would be a good problem considering that it's extremely difficult to qualify through Europe these days, especially with a dry well of talent.

Unless Qatari royalty decide to invest heavily in the Airtricity League then there is little chance of any footballer earning their living in this country being affected by a winter jaunt.

In fact, it will avoid the fixture clash which local clubs encounter every second summer when tournaments go head to head with domestic games.

The proposed switches to the calendar look set to have no real impact on regular qualification.

UEFA's recent decision to introduce a Nations League means that the main avenue to either a Euros or a World Cup will be through a hectic group that will take place between March and November of the previous year.

The Nations League idea, which groups countries of similar standard into a league competition that will effectively replace friendlies, also functions as a back door for the playoffs.

If Ireland are relying on that avenue then they will know their fate by March 2022 which leaves ample time for preparation. The only oddity would be that the Nations League process for Euro 2024 would be under way before Qatar but, once again, that would be a tolerable headache.

FAI chief executive John Delaney offered his thoughts on the FIFA task force recommendations at an Aviva Stadium appearance to promote the Polska-Eire Festival ahead of next month's key Euro 2016 meeting with Poland.

Delaney has kept a low press profile since his ballad-singing so a few questions about Qatar at an event with a different target audience to a regular football gig was safe territory.

"It's been damaging to FIFA as a brand, definitely," he said.

"Everyone has the right to try and host the World Cup but the decision to award it and not be definitive about when it was played, that was the mistake."

The best-case scenario would be if the competition was taken away from a state which simply does not deserve it. But Delaney knows the game and could offer no encouragement.

"I don't think it is possible to switch the venue. I'm sure Qatar have spent a lot of money," he said, alluding to legal issues. "I'm sure Qatar's government have a lot more money than FIFA will ever have. That boat has sailed."

It's a disgusting boat but, when 2022 comes around, Abbotstown chiefs would prefer to be on it rather than watching enviously from the Christmas party.

Meanwhile, Limerick FC are to play their home games at Jackman Park until the Markets Field is ready to host football again. Martin Russell's side have played at Thomond Park since their promotion to the Premier Division and visiting teams will experience a sharp contrast at Jackman.

Irish Independent

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