The World Cup 2022 is fast becoming the most controversial in the history of FIFA’s centrepiece tournament. The decision to award the World Cup to Qatar in 2010 provoked fierce debate, and led many respected journalists to thoroughly investigate the decision – with a view to uncovering corruption.
Although it appeared obvious that the severe heat during the summer in the Middle East would be an issue, the Qatar bid’s chief executive – Hassan al-Thawadi – stated during the bidding process that: “Heat is not and will not be an issue.”
Temperatures can reach 50°C during June/July in Qatar, and the bid was based upon a high-tech cooling system to theoretically reduce temperatures from 50°C to 27°C. The idea is that solar energy can be converted into electricity, which in turn would contribute towards cooling both fans and players in the stadiums.
How feasible it is to effectively cool a football stadium is subject to debate. There are many doubters that the quality of football would be unaffected by the heat, despite plans to spend over £30million on air-conditioning for the stadiums. The cost of this alone is ten times the total budget for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Ultimately, the message from FIFA has been that the major European leagues are going to have to come to terms with having their season split in half by a winter World Cup in Qatar. Franz Beckenbauer, a member of FIFA’s executive committee, went as far as to say that: “In January and February you have comfortable 25°C there. Qatar won the vote and deserves a fair chance as the first host from the Middle East.”
The most vocal and determined critic of a winter World Cup is the Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Scudamore. The standpoint of the Premier League is that the disruption that would be caused by moving the World Cup would amount to chaos.
The calendar for not only the 2021/22 season would be disrupted, but also the seasons either side. There are also concerns over the impact the changes would have on broadcasting rights and contracts.
The new FA Chairman, Greg Dyke, has however said that he is open to the idea of having the World Cup moved, and I believe that there are good reasons for England fans to actually want the World Cup played in January.
Firstly, the Premier League is the only major league in Europe that does not have a winter break. If the World Cup was to be played in January 2022, the fixture lists for La Liga, Serie A, and the Bundesliga wouldn’t be able to accommodate the long winter break that all their players have grown to expect. Would a non-stop start from July be overwhelming for them, or would they be out of their comfort zone just that few percent that could give England the edge?
English players in the Premier League are used to playing their football from July through to May, and many reach the peak of their fitness at the turn of the year. It is well documented that England players feel tired at the end of the season – perhaps playing the World Cup in January would get the best out of our squad?
Despite Richard Scudamore’s protests, I actually believe that if the Premier League had any inclination to support the notion, it would not be impossible to implement. After all, the World Cup would take place in about seven years.
Off the pitch, the idea of moving our season to help FIFA (who’s corruption scandal leaves much to be desired) would disappoint me. For the benefit of our fortunes on the pitch, we should look behind the lines and support a January World Cup in 2022.