A Winter 2022 World Cup Is Bad News For Other Sports, Not Just Soccer

It is firmly advisable that one needn’t even attempt to come up to speed with developments in this summer’s – probably the next eight summers’ – most absurdly gripping parlance without first flushing a number of distractingly obvious thoughts out of the mind. In getting to grips with the decision – looking more likely with each bumbled and blundering press release – that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be moved to the winter months to avoid the wasting heat of the summer in the appointed emirate, a couple of unanswerable questions need to be served up, sniffed at and then chucked into the bin before morbid curiosity leads us to make the fatal mistake of shoveling in a noxious mouthful of Haute Blatter.

For the entree, why, after a probing bidding process during which every assurance was given that a summer tournament was possible in the region and no one at FIFA felt moved to conduct any kind of study into the feasibility of staging 90 minutes of football in 50 degrees plus conditions, are we only now fretting that Qatari officials may have promised, if not the impossible, then at least the humanly implausible? That’s your garlic bread – a predictable starter that offers no surprises but without which what follows would somehow feel unfathomable. Follow that up with a main course of logistical mind benders about how on earth the European calendar will ever be able to re-shuffle itself to allow for 2 months off in the winter and then back again, doing one’s best to eat around Blatter’s casual musings that the whole arrangement “will only affect one season” (the league employees who begin drawing up fixture schedules three years in advance will find that thought particularly indigestible). Afterwards settle the stomach with a snifter of accusatory questions on why, now that Qatar has been shown by all available medical evidence to be unable to meet the terms of the agreement that gave them their prize, are alternative locations not being seriously considered?

These thoughts were all brought to the table back in 2010 and will continue to be chewed upon until long after the tournament is done and dusted. But it would be impossible to really get to grips with the more subtle points of the issue without first picking these particularly distracting pieces of gristle out of the teeth. They all now promise to be part of the landscape for the next decade and football has well and truly tied itself in another knot in its unending quest for growth. It might even be put that the likes of the Premier League and its stars have no right to complain about FIFA putting its own corporate interests first at the expense of its contemporaries when such hegemonic domineering has been the League’s blueprint for more than twenty years. To the game’s power-brokers we might say “it’s your dime”. But what about the others from outside the barbed perimeters of corporate soccer, for whom a domestic football season pushed into the summer months would leave precious little room in which to operate?

Domestic football protects itself internally against TV coverage of big games draining attendances at lower league matches by setting restrictions on what can be broadcast and when, but no umbrella body exists that can both exercise control over the Premier League and also has vested responsibility in the health of cricket, rugby league, tennis and other sports that traditionally thrive during the football hiatus. Far from operating under the banner of a co-operative, football and the summer sports will find themselves in 2022 in a dispute over territory.

As Blatter is so keen to remind us, the change will occur for only one season. Considering that complicated yearly schedules that flow in and out of one another are unlikely to prove flexible enough to flip their focus twice in a 12 month window that claim feels over-confident, but even allowing for the minimum possible disruption the outlook is bleak for some.

Between 2011 and 2012, 16 out of 18 first-class county cricket clubs suffered falling average attendances year on year — in the case of Lancashire by as much as 45%. Quite what impact the added competition for spectators from Manchester United and City will have in the region on a sport already battling to remain current in the sandstorm of a digital revolution is difficult to judge from this distance, but the challenge is unlikely to come only from the mega rich. Blackburn, Bolton and Burnley are all likely to be playing in the top two divisions in 2022 and the likes of Bury and Rochdale, already swept up in their own struggles to keep fans passing through the turnstiles, will fight fiercely to cling to their market share on a Saturday afternoon. Even a single summer of intensified competition for fans could prove unbearable for those outfits from both sports whom don’t have the safety net of multi-million pound broadcast contracts to keep them solvent.

Don’t expect the FIFA Exec Com to lose too much sleep over the relative health of English domestic cricket, or any other industry around Europe that has its long term plans linked wilfully or by circumstance, tightly or contingently to the timings and movements of the football behemoth.

But expect plenty of sob stories coming from the Premier League over the coming years about the indignity of being shunted around by a fat-cat outfit twisting and re-shaping the game for its narrowly defined corporate ends. Who knows, maybe an enforced dip in the chill waters of irony will do the domestic game some good – certainly it would make a nice change for a World Cup to leave a positive legacy behind rather than the usual white elephant infrastructures that no longer have anything to inhabit them. But spare a thought for the real victims of this undisguised crusade of profiteering and thoughtlessness. Because the sanctuary of the summer months may soon see its boarders breached leaving little to no protection for those dwelling there.

13 thoughts on “A Winter 2022 World Cup Is Bad News For Other Sports, Not Just Soccer”

  1. This is one of the better written and thought out article of late.

    We all knew that”air conditioned” stadia was a joke, at least all of us except FIFA.

    1. FIFA knew it too, Wongo, but when faced with making a decision between a suitcase full of money and rationality, well, the luggage will always win.

  2. They made a massive mistake choosing both Qatar and Russia. Both are not viable for gross human rights violations.
    Qatar is also not suitable as above – they knew this when they chose this place.
    There are far more suitable places to host these things.
    Before any country is accepted on the list they should prove they do not violate human rights conditions and that they are able to host a summer competition.

    1. The problem is Brazil. FIFA knows they can’t run their racket in mature democracies anymore so they’re going to countries where the population is less likely to revolt over massive tax spending and profit shielding/taking by FIFA and their corporate mercenaries. As much as Mr. Gulati tries to posture, 2026 is surely going to China and 2030 to the next big petro-power.

      1. Well, I doubt they’ll put back-to-back WCs in Asia, so 2026 is more likely to go elsewhere.

        Then again, I doubted they’d put it in Qatar, so the Blatter Infection that is FIFA may surprise us yet.

  3. Author, you had me at “a couple of unanswerable questions need to be served up, sniffed at and then chucked into the bin before morbid curiosity leads us to make the fatal mistake of shoveling in a noxious mouthful of Haute Blatter.”

    Excellent article. Pity I made the mistake of reading anything about Sepp Blatter before sitting down to eat. Just the thought of that evil, filth, corrupt pig is enough to make one lose an appetite.

  4. I don’t think a World Cup in Qatar is going to happen. Flipping it to the winter may avert the first problem of how you play a World Cup in 50 degree temperatures. But it doesn’t avert the second one, which is how you play an entire World Cup in one city.

    1. If they solve that one, then perhaps they can figure out how they can have the type of fan culture that goes along with the World Cup in a country with the restrictions on alcohol that they have.

      1. Some atmosphere will be there and they’ll look the other way on some things … And surely some people will be scared away like with the “crime in South Africa” excuse but I’m sure if you keep the party going for more than a day or so after the final your passport might soon turn up missing.

  5. Unfortunately, I don’t see the WC moving from Qatar anytime soon. I read a fantastic article from the Swiss Ramble (http://swissramble.blogspot.com/2013/06/fifa-world-cup-everybody-wants-to-rule.html) about how FIFA makes money. Unsurprisingly, all of their profit comes from the World Cup, which, which basically covers the losses they sustain hosting youth events and miscellaneous goodwill exercises.

    It doesn’t justify FIFA’s greedy actions, but it certainly puts them into perspective. FIFA chose Qatar and Russia, as has been mentioned above, because they’re low hanging fruit whose residents won’t put up (or won’t be allowed to put up) much resistance.

  6. Can’t understand for the life of me why individual countries don’t just withdraw from the tournament. If every country abstained then the problem is solved overnight. Surely FIFA don’t dictate what the countries do? Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

  7. Some reports say that this issue is a blatant mistake?

    Up to this moment, almost all have been discussed thoroughly. We know that there were two most influential people in FIFA having different ideas about the 2022 tournament. One aimed at USA while the other the Qatar.

    Also, it is already a truth that the one who wanted to give the holding right to Qatar is Platini because he admitted. As well, he admitted that, before the vote, he had already promised two things to the Qataris heads. One of these two promises is to move the time from summer to winter. Therefore, it is impossible to say that the FIFA voting members did not know.

    Adding to the admittance of Platini, the other lower and middle ranked officials in FIFA knew too. That is why they have a technical report saying that it is a high risk to hold the tournament in Qatar in summer. Apparently and reasonably, no super figure head in FIFA dared say no to Qatar, like telling Australia that Australia is not the targeted choice, because the wealth power of this middle east country which has many influential people, like rich businessmen and the then AFC president. Remember also that when Australia wanted to bid for a winter World Cup tournament for better TV watching rate due to the higher population in the Asian time zone, Blatter turned that proposal of changing to winter down. This suggestion by the Australian bidding team was well reported. Why Australia asked for a change? Maybe, it was because that they have heard that the competitor, Qatar, was asking for a change. Why Blatter turned the change down? Maybe, he was targeting for USA to hold the World Cup in 2022. Anyhow, there is no excuse whatsoever that the senior, middle or junior officials did not know. Actually, almost everyone in the world knows the heat problem in Qatar as far as he/she can use online technology.

    As said above, Blatter didn’t ask Qatar not to apply due to the heat problem, like refusing to recommend Australia to enter the bidding competition, because he could not dare say no to the very influential Qataris and some of the high ranking members in FIFA. Therefore, he was thinking that the technical report would work, working in a way to change some of the minds of the voting members. However, he failed. That was why we could see some of the reports saying that he mentioned about the technical report in a number of occasions after Qatar had won.

    After saying so many facts that almost everyone knew beforehand that there was a heat problem in a country in the middle of a desert, many dare say that this is not a mistake. This is not a mistake as titled. This is the most blatant cheat!

    This is a cheat.

    I remember hearing Morgan Freeman speak on the USA’s behalf at the bidding of the 2022 World Cup.

    It was elegant, moving, and contained all the power and persuasion that comes with a classic performance form the treasured actor.

    It is a cheat.

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