FIFA: A Winter World Cup Woe

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On Tuesday 24th February, members of the FIFA Task Force met in Doha to discuss the possibility of moving the prestigious World Cup from its June and July spot to the winter months. This meeting followed a six month consultation and it was announced that the likelihood of the tournament being moved to the winter is high.

A final decision however won’t be made until the FIFA Task Force meet in Zurich on the 19th and 20th March to finalise their decision.

FIFA: A Winter World Cup Woe

What’s the reaction?

Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore, who is also a member of the FIFA Task Force, stated; “The Premier League is very disappointed by the decision.” This comes as a costly decision for most European clubs, in particular those in the Premier League, as this season, 40 games took place in November, with 60 scheduled in December. If the final decision does move the winter, the Premier League will have to rearrange 100 games in a two month period. In addition to that, the Premier League had the most players competing at the last World Cup in Brazil, with 106 players based in England, some 25 more than any other league.

European Clubs Association Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge declared that although this proposal was likely, he too was concerned about the strain on European clubs. “Today’s recommendation does not come as a surprise. All match calenders across the world will have to accommodate, which requires everyone’s willingness to compromise.” Rummenigge, who represents some of Europe’s biggest clubs, added; “We expect the clubs to be compensated for the damage that the final decision would cause.”

In addition to Rummenigge, the Deutsche Fussball Liga, the governors of the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, expressed concern, with managing director Andreas Rettig cautioning FIFA as to the strain on players and financial stress on clubs.

Not all the talk has been negative: former England full-back Phil Neville and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger both seem optimistic above the proposal. Wenger believes that it would be “impossible to play in the summer in Qatar”, with Neville believing that if the proposal does go ahead, it will give England a better chance of winning the competition.

The general consensus is negative, with English Football Association Chairman Greg Dyke summing things up best: “Far from ideal,” before adding: “The best of the bad options.” In addition, European clubs believe that FIFA awarded Qatar the World Cup as a summer host, stating that the tournament should either remain in the summer or  a re-vote for a new host nation should be carried out.

Controversy:

FIFA have been involved in controversy for some time now, in particular, President Sepp Blatter. As the reaction tells you, financial strain on European clubs is the main concern, with financial benefits playing a likely part in FIFA’s awarding Qatar the 2022 World Cup. The decision to award the world’s richest country per capita the tournament in preference to the USA, Australia, Japan and South Korea still was an uncertain decision by many. Qatar with its financial power, will host the tournament, despite concerns over the country’s attitudes to homosexuality and alcohol.

This isn’t the first time FIFA have awarded the tournament in controversial circumstances. With the politics of Russia at present, the decision to award them the 2018 World Cup ahead of England, amongst others, has also spread cause for concern.

Is the heat the main concern?

The main reason for FIFA wanting to move the tournament from its usual June and July spot to the winter is due to the heat. Temperatures can reach up to 50 C in Qatar in the summer. But look back 21 years when Fifa awarded the tournament to the USA. Then, the average temperature in the summer reached 45 C, but that World Cup ended up becoming one of the most successful tournaments in recent years and still boasts the highest average attendance for a World Cup tournament. Even in Brazil in 2014, the average temperature was up to 30 C, but could reach up to 37 C at the Estadio Pantanal in Cuiaba. Even earlier in Italy 1934, the average temperature was 40 C. Tennis players play matches in 40-degree heat at the Australian Open.

Other proposed dates:

Winter is an option with regards to the heat, but with a busy calender around Christmas time it will have major implications. January and February was an option, but the Africa Cup of Nations takes place, along with the Winter Olympics, which cannot be rescheduled due to legal reasons. April was an option, but in 2022, the month of Ramadan begins on the second of the month. Hot conditions are existent from May through to September in Qatar but should it matter?

How would it be structured?

Despite the proposal to reduce the number of teams competing, it seems that the usual number will play. However, with the proposed dates, the tournament would be shorter and give teams less time to prepare between matches.

The proposed dates are currently from the end of November, to potentially the 23rd December. If the final does take place near Christmas, it will fall on a Friday, with another option being the Sunday before, the 18th, which happens to be ‘Qatar National Day.’

As for domestic and European competitions, the Premier League would have to start a month earlier and finish later, with the Champions League and F.A. Cup competitions also becoming affected.

Can’t England have a winter break?

It’s not as simple as that. Russia have three months off in their domestic leagues due to the cold weather, and German sides have one month off for the same reasons. Apart from the Premier League, Europe’s top leagues shut for two weeks at the end of December, with domestic leagues likely to finish in June as opposed to May.

Ultimately, the decision by FIFA to move the tournament to the winter will have an enormous financial strain on European clubs, in particular the Premier League. The main concern with hosting the tournament in the summer is the heat, but players and fans have dealt with this before. Either way, the controversial decision initially to award Qatar the tournament, then to rearrange its dates, comes as a result of the poisonous power that FIFA and Sepp Blatter have. It will effect everyone, but ultimately, as long as FIFA receive their money, they’ll be content.

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