FIFA have officially confirmed, via Sky News' Paul Kelso, that the 2022 World Cup will be held in the winter due to the searing hot conditions in host country Qatar.
Secretary General Jerome Valcke has told Radio France:
The dates for the World Cup (in Qatar) will not be June to July. To be honest, I think it will be held between November 15 and January 15 at the latest.
If you play between November 15 and the end of December that's the time when the weather conditions are best, when you can play in temperatures equivalent to a warm spring season in Europe, averaging 25 degrees.
That would be perfect for playing football.
With this measured statement, Valcke has put the icing on top of an already crumbled, laughingstock of a cake. The decision to move the World Cup is a sensible one given the temperatures in the Qatari summer, but it's also a self-defeating move that confirms FIFA made a mistake awarding the tournament to a country simply too hot to play in.
Here, we dissect the gargantuan hole the organisation have dug for themselves and analyse some of the fires in need of putting out.
Most importantly, the news that FIFA have moved the 2022 World Cup to the winter months will anger most domestic clubs in Europe.
A competition like the Premier League, who run their season from August to May, will now have to entirely reshuffle their structure and re-plot their calendar. The same goes for La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and, to a lesser extent, the Bundesliga.
Some countries such as Ukraine may well come out OK, but those are rarities—bonuses.
England's domestic calendar squeezes five or more games into a team's schedule over the course of December alone, meaning the season would need to be extended into June, perhaps even July.
This is the start of a potentially toxic chain of reaction that FIFA could seriously do without.
Transfer Windows, Late Preseasons, Fellow Competitions, Sponsorship Issues...Strikes?
As a result of a reshuffled season, the European transfer windows would need to move to retain their value.
Should the 2022-23 FIFA World Cup venture into January, it will be near-impossible for teams to get any sort of business done, with the likely solution being to push it temporarily into February.
That, in turn, pushes the summer window back, and with action continuing into June or July, players receive later breaks and preseason is likely shortened.
With the start and end dates of the season actually changing, sponsorship agreements come under scrutiny too.
If you're a star striker and you've played 38 Premier League games sandwiched on either side of a World Cup, you'd want an appropriate amount of rest. But a bunched calendar could see you return to competitive action inside five weeks of finishing. Should that happen, we may be dealing with unrest—even player strikes.
Perhaps the greatest irony is found in the fact that the Africa Cup of Nations have worked hard to move their tournament into odd years. The sole goal? Don't interfere with the World Cup.
So CAF moves the CAN to odd-numbered years to avoid World Cup & now finds Fifa shifting WC to within a month of its start date. Well done.— Jonathan Wilson (@jonawils) January 8, 2014
An AFCON is scheduled for February 2023, but of course that will need to moved...again.
A Dangerous Precedent Is Set
Perhaps the biggest pitfall FIFA have created for themselves is that this decision will serve as a precedent going forward.
Simply put, a country that is physically unable to host the tournament in its current format has overseen a scheduling change to ensure it happens anyway.
What's to stop FIFA from shopping the prestigious event for even greater prices in faraway lands just as unsuited to hosting a game of football? The organisation's credibility hit rock bottom several years ago, and this decision simply serves to compound their failures.
Dropping the World Cup into the Middle East with frequency could also cross over into sensitive political areas, sparking yet more potential unsavoury headlines in years to come. If FIFA have no reservations about where they go, is there due diligence being carried out on the countries bidding?
Do the countries who bid for the 2022 World Cup not have grounds to take FIFA to court over it being moved from summer to winter?— Alex Richards (@AA_Richards) January 8, 2014
How do the potential hosts deal with certain religious, racial and sexuality issues? Do the losing countries that bid for the 2022 World Cup alongside Qatar have a forum to complain about being rejected the chance to host it now?
Has Valcke gone rogue? Perhaps, but even if FIFA have suggested no "official" decision has been made, we're all very aware that the World Cup is going to moved.
FIFA vice president Jim Boyce shocked by Valcke statement as decision yet to be made by FIFA executive committee #SSN— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) January 8, 2014
It was always going to happen. FIFA found themselves at the bottom of a deep hole they'd dug for themselves, and rather than revoke the tournament from Qatar (the right decision), they've made seismic changes to the fabric of the competition.
As fans, journalists, players and coaches, it's disappointing to see such a wonderful competition—one that can bring so much joy and inspiration to the world—in such inept hands.
This is just the start of a World Cup that, to be frank, many are dreading.