Monday 11 December 2017

Christmas World Cup in Qatar: Questions and Answers on the burning issues

Tom Peck runs through the ramifications for those most affected by 2022 switch to a winter tournament

FIFA president Sepp Blatter announces Qatar as the host nation for the 2022 World Cup back in December 2010
FIFA president Sepp Blatter announces Qatar as the host nation for the 2022 World Cup back in December 2010

Tom Peck

Q: So Fifa's 2022 World Cup Task Force has recommended a November/December tournament. What does that mean for English and Champions League football?

A: Severe disruption. The Premier League will need to start earlier and finish later to accommodate a break of at least six weeks in November and December, including two weeks before the start of the tournament. The traditional Christmas schedule will be wiped out. The knock-on effect could delay the start of the FA Cup third round and the semi-finals and final of the League Cup. Champions League and Europa League games due to be played in November and December will have to be re-scheduled.

Q: What about football in other countries?

A: According to Harold Mayne-Nicholls, who headed the Fifa technical inspection team for the 2022 bid: "You'd have to stop more or less 50 leagues all over the world." It is likely the European club season will finish at the end of June rather than May. The European Leagues Organisation has said a winter World Cup will "cause great damage".

It is worth remembering that other European leagues, already have a winter break, though in Germany, Italy, France and Spain these are just over Christmas and New Year, so a winter World Cup will still cause disruption.

Also affected will be the African Nations Cup, which would normally take place in January of 2023. With European leagues extending their seasons into June, this would affect the release of players for the Copa America which would be expected to be held in June 2023.

Q: Any other losers?

A: Powerful broadcasters like Fox News in the US and Telemundo in Latin America, who have agreed to pay huge sums for the rights, have been among the most vocal opponents of a winter tournament. Now the World Cup will clash with other big events like the NFL season meaning the tournament will not be as appealing to advertisers.

There may be extensive renegotiations on the fees the broadcasters have paid - or maybe not, as it is understood that FIFA has handed the broadcasting rights for the 2026 World Cup to Fox and Telemundo - without a formal tendering process.

Q: Will the Qatar 2022 World Cup now definitely take place in the winter?

A: Almost definitely. Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has raised the prospect of taking some sort of action. But otherwise, at next month's Fifa Executive Committee meeting in Zurich, that Task Force recommendation will almost certainly be ratified.

The exact dates of the tournament have not yet been finalised, but it will likely begin in late November, with the final possibly as late as December 23, but more likely Sunday, December 18, which happens to be Qatar National Day.

Q: Was there no other time to hold the 2022 World Cup?

A: The European Leagues proposed May/June, but the Task Force felt the temperatures then would still be too hot. There was also talk of moving the tournament to January, but this would clash with the Olympic Games, which Fifa promised the IOC would never happen.

Q: Part of the requirements to bid to host the World Cup is that it has to take place in the summer. Why has this been allowed to happen?

A: Qatar's original successful bid was for a June/July tournament in the searing heat but using on-pitch, carbon-neutral air con.

However, in handing Qatar the 2022 World Cup in 2010, Fifa's 25 executives (around half of whom have since departed in the wake of corruption allegations) ignored the warnings in their own technical reports, which said a summer tournament in Qatar put the health of the players at risk. It was later accepted it had to be moved because of how the heat might affect not just the players but also the fans.

Q: Why not just strip Qatar of the tournament and start a new bidding process?

A: Qatar has always maintained it can host the World Cup in the summer; it is Fifa's decision to switch. Therefore the only way it could be taken away from Qatar was if some illegality had taken place.

Fifa did launch its own investigation into whether the bidding process was corrupt, the still unpublished Garcia report. It concluded there was no grounds to remove the tournament from Qatar.

Q: Can Fifa be held to account for this mess?

A: Fifa answers to no one.

Q: Now this decision has been made, is it the end of Fifa's Qatar headache?

A: Not even close. There are still seven years until the tournament, and Qatar's awful working conditions for the migrant workers building the vast stadiums it has almost no use for after the World Cup will come into ever sharper focus. Fifa is attempting to cast the tournament as a catalyst for improvements in industrial relations. But there will almost certainly be more deaths. (© Independent News Service)


World Cup 2022 - Possible Calendar


European season ends as usual


When the World Cup would usually have been played


Start of season for leading European leagues

November 1-2

Champions League group matchday six

November 4

Mandatory release of players two weeks before the World Cup

November 18

World Cup begins in Qatar.

December 18

World Cup final

December 26

The Premier League could return to start its traditional Christmas fixture programme. Other leagues could choose to resume later

Mid to late June 2023

European leagues end

August 2023

Premier League season starts as usual after a two-month break

Irish Independent

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