After months of expectation, the Head of FIFA’s taskforce finally presented their recommendation that the 2022 Qatar World Cup should be held in November and December. The decision told the event away from the traditional Summer period had long been expected due to fears of the effect of extreme heat on player safety. Staging the event between January and February was rejected due to the Winter Olympics, whilst Sheikh bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa also ruled out other options of hostin the event between April and September due to Ramadan and excessive heat. To reflect the untimely staging of the event for many countries, the taskforce also proposed “reduced competition days schedule with the exact dates to be defined in line with the match schedule and number of venues to be used.
Whilst FIFA has spent a great deal of time and effort in an attempt to formulate an outcome that would reduce the stress on Football Federations across the globe, European heads and, in particular, England have expressed considerable angst at the taskforce’s decision. Richard Scudamore, Chief Executive of the Premier League, who was also a part of the taskforce, expressed his frustration at the “disappointing” decision that he believes would spoil the extremly busy Christmas programme in place in England. Meanwhile, Scudamore has not been alone in his criticism of the decision. The Association of European Professional Leagues has condemned the movement of the Qatar World Cup to November, explaining it will “cause great damage” to domestic and European competitions, whilst declaring its intention to maintain its battle against the decision. Its sister organisation, the European Club Association also called on the international football Federation to pay compensation to reflect the extreme disruption to the schedules of clubs across Europe who will have to release their players mid season. This request has since been rejected by FIFA with Jerome Valcke, FIFA Secretary stating that “its happening once we’re not destroying football.”
However, not all footballing quarters are opposed to the proposition put forward for the Qatar World Cup. Whilst reinforcing his ultimate defiance against Qatar staging the competition, Greg Dyke the FA Chairman, has voiced his support for the decision. Dyke explained that the change of date signalled “the best of the bad options,” pointing to the fact that the high temperatures meant that “it would be ridiculous” to play during the summer months. Jim Boyce, the FIFA Vice President expressed a similar view that it was important that the confusion regarding the date of the tournament had been put to bed to allow for preparation to commence, “if its going to be in Qatar then lets agree on a date in the winter and look forward to a wonderful World Cup.”
It should be noted that whilst such comments do not represent a glowing indictment of FIFA’s decision, certain analysts have commented that the task force’s decision may significantly benefit the chances of the English National Team. Phil Neville commented that the English often arrive at major tournaments on the back of a mentally and physically draining nine month season. For instance, in each of the last three world cups, Wayne Rooney has entered having played more than 50 games, far from an ideal preparation for an intense month long competition. However, in 2022, the average England player participating in the Champions League would have played 14 games before having to depart for their World Cup training camp. This illustrates that hosting the competition in November will allow the players to arrive at the tournament in prime condition.
Despite the varying opinions on the matter, it says much for the priorities of FIFA that the decision was made to hand the footballing centrepiece to Qatar with little consultation with the global footballing federations or promises for meaningful reform of their treatment of migrant labourers building the infrastructure to host the tournament.
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