A RIGHT OLD MESS – Could the 2022 Qatar World Cup be cancelled?

By
Updated: June 16, 2013
Sepp Blatter Fifa

The 2022 World Cup may seem a lifetime away but trouble is continuing to mount among the higher echelons of the game. Contentious from its inception, the decision to host the world’s biggest sporting event in a country where summer temperatures can easily surpass 40°C, is threatening to split the game.

Qatar 2022 World Cup Committee Secretary general Hassan Al Thawadi has again reiterated this week, that he is open to hosting the tournament during the European winter – a move that would surely lead to incalculable opposition from such powerhouses as the Premier League, Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga.

Roundly dismissed when first suggested, the proposal is gaining momentum and Al Thawadi’s remarks could prove significant, coming as they do just two weeks after Uefa General Secretary Gianni Infantino seemingly offered his support to the debate. In fact, many now believe European football’s governing body could be ready to abandoned the very national associations they are meant to protect in order to fall in line behind Fifa and their lamentable President, Sepp Blatter.

Whatever Uefa’s plans, there is little doubt that the current situation is a mess and is setting the game’s most influential individuals on a collision course with football’s most powerful associations and leagues.

The Barclays Premier League has already offered vocal opposition to the idea that the 2022 World Cup may be played during the height of the European football calendar, suggesting it would radically affect their fixtures for three seasons, in turn undermining the very competition itself. There has also been criticism from Bundesliga boss Christian Seifert and a number of the continent’s biggest clubs.

Controversial from the start, Fifa’s decision to award the tournament to the Gulf state in December of 2010 was immediately met with opposition from those who claimed Blatter and co had made their decision with little thought to football.  Blatter has long-since lobbied for Asia’s Football Confederation to be awarded more places in the tournament finals and has criticised the monopoly enjoyed by European and South American nations who are awarded 13 and five spots respectively.

Of course, Blatter’s stance could be viewed as brinkmanship as he maneuvers himself into position to stand for a fifth term as Fifa President in 2015. To advocate a more equal representation at future World Cups will certainly do him no harm as he attempts to garner support from Fifa’s members in Asia and Oceania.

Initially, much was made of Qatar’s plan to spend more than £65 billion on new, air conditioned stadiums that could host matches during the height of the Middle East summer, with little discomfort to those on the pitch and in the stands. Yet no sooner had the tournament been awarded to the country, than concerned voices began to appear suggesting a re-scheduling to a less-oppressively hot season – sending them on a collision course with Europe’s top leagues.

And it maybe a collision course that could endanger the very hosting of the World Cup itself. There is little chance that Europe’s most powerful leagues will acquiesce, they have far too much to lose, and what then?  Is it too far fetched to suggest the tournament itself could be abandoned? Most probably, but it is conceivable that, with a protracted deadlock, the World Cup may be hosted elsewhere.

It has happened before, albeit for different reasons.  Colombia had been originally chosen to host the 1986 competition before they withdraw in 1982 due to financial problems. Mexico benefited on that occasion as they staged a second tournament in 16 years. Yet Qatar are not Columbia. Money is no issue, which is why we find ourselves at the current impasse.

In truth, it seems implausible that Fifa will change the scheduling of the tournament, not least because Fifa themselves have made much of leagues and competitions around the globe syncing with the European season – mainly to give every nation an equal chance at international tournaments played after long domestic seasons.

Yet it also seems highly unlikely that they will sanction the removal of Qatar as hosts, to award the tournament to one of the losing bidders – most realistically, the United States. In all probability, and despite the ongoing support that is seemingly growing, it is more than likely that the 2022 World Cup will be played in Qatar, at the height of the summer as planned.

What is not up for debate, is that Fifa have brought the whole mess upon themselves. Yet why should that surprise any follower of the game?

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