World Cup 2022: Why the Premier League Was Right to Question Winter Tournament
The awarding by FIFA of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a nation rich in financial wealth but poor in world football history, or even an association with the game, caused some consternation amongst those who felt that a more established footballing entity should have won the rights to host the tournament.
Perhaps understandably, those nations who had also bid to host the tournament were amongst the most disappointed, with England in particular caused some distress, having believed they had a good chance of success in the voting for the 2018 edition.
Discussions within FIFA have led to speculation that the 2022 World Cup could be held during the winter months of December or January (via BBC), amid concerns that the heat of Qatar would be too great during the traditional World Cup summer months.
This hasn't gone down well with the Premier League in England, and no wonder (via Guardian). There are several reasons which leave the English Premier League well within their rights to question the validity of holding a World Cup in the winter months.
Disruption to multiple major leagues
Those nations which play their season through the summer months—Brazil, Norway and others—often find their fixtures disrupted while the major tournaments take place.
However, they also see most of their national team made up by players who have moved abroad, playing in other European leagues which run during the winter months.
Italy, Germany, Spain, England, France, Holland...many of these major nations see the bulk of their international side made up by home-based players, and it would case major disruption to them to see a World Cup hosted right in the middle of the campaign.
Yes, some of the leagues have a winter break, but not all, and even those who do have the break would suffer from a significant change in routine, with the best players not resting as usual, but instead taking part in a very intensive international tournament.
The conditions of the host nation
The temperature in Qatar during the summer months being so high has been offered as a major factor in the thinking of switching to a winter World Cup.
Unfortunately, this is the kind of factor which FIFA perhaps should have taken into account beforehand, and which should have been offered solutions to as part of the host's bid. Qatar have offered to air condition the stadiums (via Guardian), which is fine for matches, but concerns over visitors' well being has then surfaced as another reason.
Perhaps someone at FIFA should be made aware that Qatar is a major tourism destination, and that people voluntarily brave the heat each and every year?
USA '94 wasn't exactly a cool picnic breeze while the games were being played, and likewise South Africa 2010 in some host cities, Durban for example, or at Mexico in '86.
Football survived an intense competition in those temperatures and conditions; it will do so again in Qatar.
The World Cup is not a domestic cup replay
With all due respect to those who inhabit a world outside of football, this is the FIFA World Cup, supposedly one of the most important and prestigious competitions in the sporting world. To play in it, players work and train and give their best for two years in qualification, and for four years between tournaments.
If there are problems with the World Cup host cities, or the conditions, or the stadiums, or the training facilities...fix them.
Or at least acknowledge that they might arise before awarding the contracts to certain countries to host the tournament, and get guarantees in return that they will be seen to.
Don't suddenly alter the entire landscape of the footballing world just because it is deemed more convenient.
Chasing the money?
Only FIFA delegates and those who voted on the host country know if they have gone after the dollar signs in awarding Qatar with the rights to host the World Cup, or if they truly believe that some legacy is going to be left after the games have been played out.
But perhaps FIFA would do well to take a look at UEFA, and the "legacy" they have created with their own two tournaments.
On the one hand, you have a governing body trying to balance financial rewards, genuine interest, vested stakeholders and teams who want to compete for glory.
But then you also have the Europa League, which fewer teams seem to care about every year until around the quarterfinal stage.
Simply put, it's a burden on some teams who could do without it if they don't qualify for the golden goose, the Champions League.
UEFA went for the big-money reward system to convince the biggest clubs to stay under the umbrella of UEFA-only tournaments. While there can be no denying the excellent football spectacle that the Champions League has become, there is also no point ignoring the ignominy of the Europa League's existence.
Take away the prestige, make allowances, chase the vast financial offerings, and something a little dirty, a little embarrassing, a little pointless will be left behind.
FIFA would do well to take notice and make sure that doesn't happen to their precious World Cup.
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