Recently we’ve shared that various soccer luminaries such as Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson has advocated a spring-to-fall schedule change in advance of the 2022 World Cup. Now we find out that UEFA itself is advancing well past the thinking stage.
The British press is reporting that the English Premier League and Bundesliga are gearing up to fight a UEFA (specifically, Michel Plantini) plan to implement a spring-to-fall schedule permanently for UEFA member leagues and alter the qualification calendar for international events. The plan, which would hypothetically be put in place by 2015, supposedly echoes a proposal Plantini wrote for Sepp Blatter and FIFA in 1998 to change the calendar then, but was scrapped because of opposition from Italy and Spain.
All European leagues would run their schedule from mid-March to the end of October. Qualification for the World Cup or European Championship would take place from November to mid-December, with the final tournaments played mid-January through February. The articles also reveal that FIFA officials have been planning for a winter World Cup in 2022, despite their assertions otherwise. In fact, it looks like Qatar was always going to be a winter World Cup, with the executive committee moving forward with January 2022 planning since the December 2 vote.
My first thought on reading this is I am glad UEFA is planning to make the move three years before the Russian World Cup, where I am sure a winter World Cup will be….quite pleasant. But it seems like the movement toward a winter 2022 Cup (and consequently a spring-to-fall schedule) has been in the works for at least the past 45 days, probably more. So anything FIFA has said so far about the 2018 and 2022 bid process has to be somewhat doubted if they’ve lied about the Qatar scheduling.
My second thought is that the major European leagues would never go for this. I think some of the smaller European leagues (I’m looking at you Scotland) would fall in-line with UEFA, but this would be a major headache to the EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, and Ligue Un. It would be especially bad for Italy and Spain where summer temperatures approach 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
But let’s assume UEFA is 100% in favor of this and forces all their leagues to switch to spring-to-fall. All of the sudden, little stubborn MLS would be a trend setter in the soccer world. The same nation whose president was told to his face that they needed to conform to the rest of the world’s schedule would now be the one to whom the world would conform. Quite a nice vindication for Don Garber and USSF who have remained unmoved by the international pressure.
What are some of the other consequences of a European schedule switch?
- No more Landon Donovan to Everton loans for a few months. If MLS and UEFA play at the same time, American stars cannot go to Europe for a few months and return for the second half of the MLS season. While this would alleviate some of the Beckham transfer drama, my fear would be that big name Americans would just go to Europe and not play in MLS at all during their peak years. This could exacerbate the league’s talent drain.
- Fewer tours of the U.S. by big European clubs. Manchester United and Barcelona probably wouldn’t want to do a 12-day tour in the winter with the chance of their matches being snowed out. So either they would tour the South (excellent for Miami and Dallas) or limit themselves to only one or two stops. And if international qualifiers are occurring, then the biggest clubs would be reduced to their second team even more so than they are now.
I will believe a UEFA spring-to-fall when I see it, but we have definitely learned two things from this story: the fall-to-spring schedule is not sacrosanct and FIFA’s pronouncements cannot be trusted.