Winter World Cup edges nearer
Amid the growing concerns about the extreme summer heat for players and spectators alike in the 2022 Qatar World Cup, a winter tournament alternative is now gathering traction.
In an exclusive interview with Paul Nicholson of Insideworldfootball,FIFA President Sepp Blatter was quoted as saying:
“I came to the conclusion that playing the World Cup in the heat of Qatar’s summer was simply not a responsible thing to do – despite the fact that I know full well that Qatar has the means to develop the best cooling technology.”
When challenged that the Qatari climate was a known factor prior to the award of the World Cup on December 10th 2010, Blatter conceded:
“… That may well be so, and it may well be that we made a mistake at the time. On the other hand, you must also consider political and geo-political realities.”
On October 3rd 2013, the President plans to recommend to the FIFA Executive Committee that the World Cup be moved to a winter format.
This announcement has caused much consternation in the footballing world, not least among Europe‘s top leagues.
Under the Swiss’ stewardship, FIFA has made it quite clear that their agenda is one of expansion into developing markets; hence World cups being awarded to Japan/Korea in 2002 and South Africa in 2010.
Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 certainly fit the bill.
Europe and South America already have established markets and one cannot deny the positive impact that USA ‘94 had on the fledgling MLS and the North American market.
Blatter was anxious to convey that Europe “no longer ruled the world” and that the largest global sporting event staged in the Middle East would have a positive galvanizing effect for the troubled region.
Whether his global football crusade is truly benign is up for debate.
Let’s not forget his inappropriate suggestion that female footballers wear “tighter shorts” to garner more viewer-ship; hardly an enlightened philosophy.
In an interview with Sky Sports, former Scottish Football Association Chief Executive, Gordon Smith, said an interruption to domestic league schedules to accommodate a winter tournament, would cause “mayhem.”
FA Chief Richard Scudamore has indicated in Goal.com that such revolutionary schedule change is “nigh on impossible” to facilitate. Admitting that FIFA had autonomy to whom they awarded the competition, he went on to say:
“The international football calendar is one that has to be consulted though; it is not something FIFA can just decide, because the whole of world football has an interest in that.”
It is safe to say that ECA (European Club Association), of which ten English clubs are members, might weigh in heavily on the issue.
It is likely that the ECA would opt to back Scudamore in accepting the feasibility of a traditional summer tournament and maintaining the status quo.
Indeed Professor Paul Brewer, the FA’s former Head of Human Performance, claims that adverse effects could be offset with the right acclimatization and hydration techniques.
In his study at the University of Bedfordshire, to further substantiate his point, he cited the Mexico ‘86 World Cup, which also had the additional problem of altitude.
There is no denying that the decision to award the Qatar the World Cup was controversial and unpopular in some quarters; perhaps the result of sour grapes, perhaps not.
There were allegations of bribery and corruption surrounding the bid.
FIFA’s own guidelines with regard to appropriate lobbying in the bidding process is conveniently and firmly entrenched in the grey area.
The winter World Cup proposal has quite successfully deflected attention away from the ills of having the spectacle in Qatar, toward the greater ills of putting countless domestic leagues into upheaval.
With some sleight of hand and some cunning public relations, the perennial President might just have re-positioned his original agenda as the lesser of two evils.