Bad news football fans – reports are circulating that sometime within the next month FIFA will confirm Qatar as the host for the 2022 World Cup, and that the tournament will take place in November and December instead of June and July. Many fans and pundits alike were already very unhappy with the decision to award the tournament to Qatar in the first place, while rescheduling it will give European football leagues a major headache.
To recap briefly, Qatar won the rights for the World Cup in 2022 after beating out rival bids from the US, Australia, Japan and South Korea (no European bids were allowed as the 2018 World Cup is in Russia). This decision was met with dismay by many, and controversy has never been far away since.
One of the (many) talking points was how the tournament could possibly be held in a country where the average summer temperate is around 106°F, with highs of up to 119°F. Qatar has unveiled plans to build stadiums suited for this, with roofs and cooling systems, but the heat would still be an issue for fans anytime they weren’t inside.
It is now being reported that FIFA is about to “solve” this problem. According to respected journalist Grant Wahl:
“Multiple sources are telling me it’s now a done deal that World Cup 2022 will take place in November and December 2022 in Qatar. A FIFA taskforce will meet in Doha next week and they’ll make a recommendation publicly, then the FIFA Executive Committee will make a final decision next month in Zurich.”
Wonderful! Let’s severely inconvenience three European football seasons so that we can hold the World Cup in a country that is not at all suitable to host the tournament, and that 99% of football fans would like to be staged elsewhere anyway.
— Andrew MacDougall (@Andy_MacDougall) February 18, 2015
Mini-rant over. Let’s actually consider the implications that a winter World Cup could have on the European football calendar. The 2022/23 season would of course be the one most affected. There would have to be a break of a least one month in the middle of the season, with Wahl suggested that many other international dates will be dropped from the calendar. Despite this, it’s likely that the leagues will have to start earlier and end later to fit everything in.
This could have a knock-on effect on the 2021/22 and 2023/24 seasons, as they may have to be adjusted to ensure there is a long enough summer break. Many European leagues already have a winter break, ranging from 2 – 4 weeks, so they may not have quite so much trouble adapting. In England however, the winter schedule is the most hectic, and fans will be very disappointed if the traditional Boxing Day and New Year’s Day games are missing.
Moving on from the effect on the leagues, a winter World Cup would also make many European clubs very unhappy. The World Cup is a taxing tournament, so for players to return from this and immediately be thrown back into the demanding schedule of club football is a big ask. What’s more likely is that teams will have to give players a break, especially those who were involved later in the tournament, and ease them back into the fold.
Bearing in mind that this would be during the second half of the season, when the games are increasing in importance, and that the clubs pay their stars millions of pounds, and it’s very easy to see why this would not sit at all well with Chairman and managers. An equally big concern would be a player getting injured during the tournament, ruling them out for the rest of the season.
Finally, the summer and winter transfer windows could also be impacted, with clubs having less time to complete their summer business before the start of a season, and fewer games before the January transfer window to assess their squads.
All things considered, there don’t seem to be many positives about having a winter World Cup, especially from the viewpoint of European football. There is still a hope amongst many that FIFA will cave in to the pressure and award the tournament to a new host; indeed, any one of the other bids would be ready to step in and host, with the stadiums and infrastructure to host a major event already in place. But for now this remains a pipedream, and Qatar 2022 is full steam ahead.