6 Reasons Why the World Cup Should Be Taken Away from Qatar
To say the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has not been met with universal approval is quite an understatement.
From the heat to Qatar's rather questionable human rights record to the proposed switch from the promised summer tournament to one in winter, it would not represent a huge shock if FIFA were to remove the tournament from the Gulf state.
But should they? The tournament was, after all, awarded in a free election of FIFA delegates. They chose the location, so it would represent a huge U-turn for them to change their minds and give the competition to another nation.
However, there are various compelling reasons for the tournament's removal from Qatar to another more deserving nation.
Bleacher Report picks six arguments for the 2022 World Cup's relocation.
Whenever a heatwave hits a Western country unused to such temperatures, an enterprising TV news crew will almost inevitably attempt to fry an egg on a car bonnet, or perhaps even the pavement.
If they try that trick in Qatar, they could open up a cafe selling fried egg sandwiches to passing Brits, for the heat will, as you know by now, be absolutely unbearable.
When they pitched for the tournament, the Qatari bid featured all sorts of harebrained schemes, including air conditioning for the grounds and floating 'solar clouds' that would shade the pitch, as reported by The Daily Mail. Somewhat inevitably, these turned out to be unworkable, so if the tournament is to be played at the traditional, promised time of year, it will be in heat that averages 105 degrees Fahrenheit, as per Al Jazeera.
The effects of making people play sport in conditions like that should be obvious, but for an example of what might happen, one only has to turn to the Australian Open this year, when play had to be called off on several occasions after temperatures topped that 105 degrees, and Britain's Jamie Murray had to be treated for heatstroke, as The Guardian reported.
Unlike in tennis, FIFA has no policy for extreme weather conditions at its tournaments, instead merely advising players to drink plenty of water. Unfortunately, they didn't also pass on the sage wisdom that players should also probably breathe in and out if they wanted to stay running around.
Some may say that World Cups have been played in extreme heat before, and they have, not least in Mexico and assorted South American countries. However, the game is so much quicker, so much more athletic now, that this sort of heat is simply dangerous.
Disruption to the European Leagues
To combat the heat problem, the solution at present seems to be switching the tournament to the winter, when temperatures are much more manageable.
Of course, this presents a number of problems, not least that the European leagues will have a two-month chunk taken out of the middle of their season.
Some have quite reasonably argued that not all the countries involved operate on an August-May season, so the disruption will only be to a few big and powerful teams that should stop whinging.
However, a large portion of the players involved will represent European clubs. UEFA is by far the most-represented confederation at the tournament, with 13 of the 32 nations from Europe, and many of the players from other countries have their day jobs there too.
For example, 30 of the 49 players called up by Brazil in the last year and 19 of the 23 in the last Argentina squad play for European teams. The bulk of the players at the 2022 World Cup, unless there is a violent power shift in the next eight years, will play for European sides, and a switch to a winter tournament will mean they have to start a season, stop halfway through and play what will be for many the most important competition of their careers, then go back and finish their domestic campaigns.
To say that isn't ideal would be quite an understatement.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. The argument about whether the second-biggest sports tournament in the world, after the Olympics, should be held in such a country should really end there.
In a civilised world, those sort of attitudes should not be tolerated, never mind enshrined in law, but obviously FIFA does not take such concerns particularly seriously, if the attitude of their president is anything to go by.
Sepp Blatter said in a press conference, when asked about what gay people should do if they want to go to Qatar (as per the BBC), that they should “refrain from sexual activity.”
Blatter clarified (or at least attempted to clarify) his statement afterwards, but that he felt the need to treat such a serious issue so flippantly speaks to his general attitude.
Apart from anything else, by 2022 we will, in all likelihood, have an openly gay international footballer selected to play at the World Cup. While there is currently no out top-class player, the number of sportsmen and women revealing their sexuality is increasing, and it seems inevitable that there will be at least one in eight years time.
Would they be welcome? Would they feel they could travel to a country so obviously opposed to their lifestyles? In all probability, not.
According to Jamie Doward in The Observer, 400 Nepalese migrant workers have died in construction in Qatar since the World Cup bid was won. That would be bad enough, but the Nepalese only comprise around 20% of the workforce, often forced to operate in dreadful conditions.
Jim Murphy, the UK's shadow international development secretary, wrote in The Guardian:
People don't have to die to bring us this or any other World Cup or sporting event; not a single worker died building the sites for the London 2012 Olympics. According to the International TUC, the 2022 World Cup risks 4,000 lives...
Fifa must receive a full report from Qatar, cataloguing the full scale of the problem—and a serious plan to make things right. Nothing less will do. The shortcomings in the current system leave too many vulnerable people exposed.
Qatar has come an incredibly long way in the last twenty years, and there have been real advances that should not be ignored. But the simple fact is that the conditions faced by some of these workers – and no-one is suggesting it's every single one—fall within the International Labour Organisation's definition of forced labour.
It's impossible to disagree. The Qatar 2022 organising committee have issued a charter apparently guaranteeing the safety of its workers, but one doubts whether the situation will improve dramatically, and the damage has surely already been done.
This will be a World Cup built on blood.
This is a country with no real football history, so it is hardly a surprise that there is currently no real infrastructure that can cope with an event the size of the World Cup.
It will cost something in the region of $220 billion (£138million, as reported by ESPN) to build the stadia, hotels and assorted other parts of infrastructure required. By way of comparison, it cost $3.5billion to prepare South Africa for the 2010 tournament.
Just imagine for a second what that money could be better spent on. It's essentially a futile exercise, because it's unlikely that, should the World Cup be taken away from Qatar tomorrow, $220billion will suddenly be spent on the grassroots of football or given to charity, but it nonetheless seems like an appalling waste of money.
Here's the real kicker about how lacking in infrastructure Qatar currently is. The city scheduled to host the final, Lusail City, doesn't actually exist yet. They're having to build an entire new city, about 15km north of Doha, to accommodate the tournament.
If it was in the plot of a film, it would be laughed off as utterly implausible.
It Can Be Done
The previous five arguments are all theoretical. Nothing will or can happen without FIFA's action, but importantly, they can move the World Cup.
There is still time. With eight years remaining, a country with more established infrastructure can take over with the minimum of fuss, removing all of the other problems listed in this article.
And Sepp Blatter himself has admitted that it could happen. He was quoted by Martin Lipton in The Daily Mirror as saying, in 2011:
We are going step by step into the matters we have to realise and if somewhere through this Solutions Committee they should say we have to have a look at that, then we will do that.
When I spoke with Zwanziger he realised it's too easy to say we should re-open things.
He knows he has to first come to FIFA with the evidence and everybody must produce evidence.
Concerning the sponsors, I haven't received any let's say, reservations, made by any sponsor of FIFA that we should change anything with Qatar—yet.
There is a FIFA Congress due to take place next year, at which the decision could be taken. Of course it's unlikely, but it's possible.