FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke stated on French radio that the beautiful game’s governing body is looking to move the World Cup in Qatar to some time in between November 2022 and January 2023. The original decision in 2010 in naming the host country was widely scrutinized due to the country’s lack of footballing culture or infrastructure (i.e. massive stadiums to host these matches), human rights violations, lack of alcohol (seriously, this will be an issue), and oppressive summer heat in the Middle East. Oh yeah, and the U.S. came in second place to Qatar as the host, so I am rather bitter. Impressive stadium designs were generated with audacious price tags, including some with particular “intricacies.” To compensate with said heat, architects intended to air condition these open-air stadiums during the June/July months. Yeah, that makes no sense in an area that averages temperatures around 106 degrees during that time of year. At all. The prospect of moving WC2022 to the winter was thrown out there, but few took it seriously. But here are some serious implications of FIFA’s move (which is not binding by any means, so things could change):
The vast majority of international football leagues are scheduled to be playing during this time. Clubs who pay the massive player wages already despise international duties when players go represent their countries – with potential injuries being costly to their prized human capital. There are eight years until this scheduling conflicts come to fruition, but this is a unique challenge to the network of leagues around the world. Presuming league games continue, clubs will be without marquee stars for a significant portion of time. Club football around the world will suffer. If leagues choose to have an extended break during this time, it will impact the following campaign (and potentially domino into subsequent seasons). Then there’s the Champions League, the high stakes tournament of European clubs that would be in full swing during this time as well. A lot of money is involved here with player contracts, ticket sales, and television ratings. Speaking of television…
Fox Sports US and Telemundo paid $1B for television rights in the U.S. to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. This investment is not chump change even for the conglomerate channels. However, in this country of United States, there is another football that takes center stage that time of year. The World Cup is usually played during the dog-days of summer and during the middle of the day or night, where few American sports compete for sports fan viewers. With Fox’s presence on college football Saturdays and NFL Sundays, this is going to be a problem. Will Fox subjugate the most popular sport in the world to their cable channels, or will they dare step on the toes of pigskin diehards and show the boring sport where no one scores? Which money/ratings does Fox care more about? They’ll have to make a decision.
Health > Money?
Wait, does FIFA actually care? This literal and figurative costly decision will ripple around the worldwide sporting scene, but the question is whether the oft-scandaled and questioned
cartel FIFA is making this decision for the safety of players and fans. If so, I applaud them. Players should not be asked to perform on the greatest stage under such conditions and fans paying for a once-in-a-lifetime experience deserve an event equivalent to the price tag. Let alone the tens and hundreds of thousands who will crowd in fanzones outside stadiums. I am skeptical. I’d love to believe the organization is making this altruistic decision. And if they decide that maybe Qatar isn’t the place for them, I will happily accept and welcome them to the States in eight years time.