There's nothing like a World Cup. Thirty-two nations from around the world gather to compete in a tournament of epic proportions, bragging rights and some truly beautiful soccer.
And it's held right in the middle of summer, when sports fans don't have much else to watch save a bit of baseball. For over a month, an otherwise barren viewing schedule is suddenly filled with Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, crazy soccer hooligans and vuvuzelas.
Not in 2022, folks.
In 2022, it's increasingly looking as though the World Cup will be played in the winter. Yes, the winter, sometime in either November, December or January. From Sky Sports:
Jim Boyce of Northern Ireland made the following comments, via The Telegraph:
What has come out of this meeting, and what I think is sensible, is an agreement by the Uefa countries that the World Cup cannot be played in Qatar in the summer. Everyone was certainly in agreement about that.
But what the 54 countries do not want Fifa to do is to make a decision yet on exactly when in the year it is going to be played.
There is still nine years to go and people feel Fifa should sit down with all the major stakeholders and come up with a solution that would cause the minimum disruption to football.
There is plenty of time to do that in my opinion, and hopefully football will be the winner.
The basis for this decision is that Qatar is extremely hot in the summer—over 100 degrees Fahrenheit hot—and clearly not safe conditions for a sport that involves as much running as soccer does. Qatar originally won the bid three years ago after promising "fully air-conditioned open-air stadiums that work using solar power" (via Mark Tutton of CNN).
So much for that plan, huh? Turns out the air conditioning bills on that plan would be, by some estimates, "unsustainable" and "too expensive" (via Tariq Panja of Bloomberg Sports).
There are so many reasons why this could be disastrous. Let's start in the United States, where this tournament could see fairly low ratings, seeing as the NFL, NBA and NHL will all be in mid-season. With as much progress as soccer has made in the States—and how much more progress the sport could see in the next nine years—this could be a major impediment.
What's more, imagine being FOX in this deal. The network paid BIG money for the rights to broadcast the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. Now, they lose the otherwise empty sports slate of the summer and have to compete with pro and college football, pro and college basketball and hockey?
Let's be honest—that's not worth as much money. As huge as the World Cup is, even an event of its size would struggle competing against that slate of sports action in the States.
In Europe, this would cut directly into the professional soccer seasons, where the majority of the top players in the world play. Do you think the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A or Bundesliga will be thrilled about losing a month out of their season and either starting a month earlier, ending a month later or condensing their schedule?
Not only that, imagine if it takes place in January, right in the midst of the transfer window. What fun that would be. And let's not forget about the Champions League, an incredibly lucrative tournament that will have teams and broadcast holders up in arms if its group stage is interrupted.
And you can bet that with plenty of parties having plenty of reasons to dispute this move, that dirt will be dug up and exposed. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has already come out and said there was political pressure from Europe to play the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, surely a preemptive strike against UEFA president Michel Platini before in anticipation of Europe's top leagues contesting this potential decision.
Oh, and if the tournament was held in January of 2022, the tournament would come in direct conflict with the Winter Olympics. Imagine the political storm that would brew.
Of course, what are the alternatives?
If the stadiums can't be properly cooled, you simply can't play the tournament in the summer. And three years after accepting Qatar's bid, it's a bit late in the game to pull the rug from under the country's bid (and according to The Telegraph's report, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke already said that wasn't an option).
A winter World Cup has disaster written all over it. Unfortunately, given the lack of alternatives, it looks as though it has "inevitable disaster" written all over it. FIFA now will have the difficult task of limiting the collateral damage if the 2022 World Cup becomes a winter event.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets can't wait for Death Valley to host the Winter Olympics.