Saturday,16 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1160, (15 - 21 August 2013)
Saturday,16 December, 2017
Issue 1160, (15 - 21 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

A winter World Cup?

Almost three years after Qatar was chosen as host nation of the 2022 World Cup,
the decision remains controversial.
Inas Mazhar reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

When Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup in December 2010, many media organisations described it as a scandal-enshrouded ballot. Throughout the past few years there have been persistent rumours that Qatar had bought the World Cup as many media and members of the football family, especially Europeans, wondered what does Qatar have to offer at the World Cup that other countries do not have.
For the football family, the World Cup is not only a football competition. Football fans fly from all over the world in order to enjoy watching the beautiful game and delve into the culture and entertainment of the host nation. Many believe Qatar, a tiny nation, has nothing new to offer visitors.
The one-month World Cup is usually held in summer every four years, between June and July and weather conditions in Qatar at that time of the year are unbearable with temperature reaching more than 50 degrees centigrade. When complaints flooded from Europe regarding the weather, Qatar promised that all venues would be air-conditioned for players and fans. And the roads? Well, it was said that these will also be shaded and air-conditioned.
Though there are still nine years to go before kick-off, there have been several calls to move football’s most prestigious event somewhere else or stage it in winter.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the chief executive of European and German champions Bayern Munich, has pressed German football for a further step towards an adjustment for a winter World Cup in Qatar in 2022. Not only that but the former super star is even open to the possibility of German football turning its season around permanently.
Rummenigge told the German magazine Kicker that he supports a move which would push the Bundesliga further from the resistant stance taken by England’s Premier League which is totally opposed to even a single-season adjustment.
Media reports in Germany two years ago said that UEFA’s French president Michel Platini had considered whether European football should fall in line with most of the rest of the world and moved to a calendar-year schedule. Consequently, it means that leagues would start in February and end in November with a summer break of around four or six weeks. Platini later denied that he had come forward with a firm scheme.
Keir Radnedge, chairman of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) Football Commission sees that German football, like most of central and Eastern Europe, has always incorporated a winter break in its league season for climatic reasons. Accordingly, turning the season around would not come as such a revolutionary step as it would for England and, to a lesser extent, Spain and Italy.
Rummenigge finds this adjustment as “quite attractive, especially for us in Germany. I like to call it a kind of Lego system,” he told Kicker. He sees a new, Gregorian calendar schedule as being formed by a number of adjustable “building blocks” to allow for qualifying matches and finals in competitions such as the World Cup and European Championship.
Rummenigge also believes it would be helpful to clubs who would have significant stretches of a season “reserved exclusively for club football because there would also be a month where only national team football was played – all qualifying matches and friendlies.
“This means that you could play a World Cup in January and February – say, for example, in Qatar – and when maybe the 2026 World Cup comes back to Europe, you could play it back in the summer,” the German legend explained.
Chairman of the AIPS Football Commission Keir Radnedge thinks that support from such a significant source as Rummenigge will delight not only Platini but also FIFA President Sepp Blatter who has finally come around to worrying about a World Cup in searing summer temperatures in the Gulf in 2022.
Days after Rummenigge’s interview, Radnedge said he was certain that the notorious and hot 2022 World Cup in Qatar now threatens to force the ultimate schism in English football after new FA chairman Greg Dyke set himself against the Premier League over the timing issue.
On the AIPS official website, Radnedge wrote that pressure has been building for FIFA to switch the finals in the Gulf from summer to winter. The Premier League is opposed but Dyke has declared himself in favour.
In a first major media briefing since succeeding David Bernstein last month, the new FA chairman said that he believes it is impossible to stage the finals in the blazing, burning and intense summer temperatures. Dyke’s remarks and statements came as follows: “I don’t know how many people here have ever been to Qatar in June. I have, and the one thing I can tell you is that you couldn’t play a football tournament in Qatar in June.
“Even if all the stadia are air-conditioned, which seems in terms of green policy a bit strange, I just don’t think it’s possible. For the fans, it would be impossible.
“I think it will either have to be moved out of the summer or it will have to be moved to another location. And I suspect the former is more likely than the latter.
“So, I think my position, and I suspect the FA’s position, will be you can’t play it in the summer in Qatar. FIFA, therefore has a choice: You either move it time wise or you move it to another location. I suspect either ends up in some sort of litigation.
“I think it’s now genuinely becoming accepted that you can’t play it in Qatar in the summer and I think that will be our position. I understand the reaction of the Premier League to not want to move it, and I have some sympathy with them.
“We didn’t have to choose to give it to Qatar in the summer, but that’s what it is.”
According to Radnedge, the English FA chairman’s categorical statement, in line with his reputation and business and media career, was at odds with his predecessor who had said in June that any plans to move the World Cup to the winter were “fundamentally flawed”.
Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the Premier League, said only weeks ago that switching the Qatar World Cup to winter would cause chaos for football leagues around the world.
Radnedge added in his report that the league believed, unlike Platini who has claimed that disruption would be minimal, that a switch would impact all the three domestic seasons around the tournament, upsetting TV and sponsorship deals as well as players’ contracts. He explains that the Premier League has always expected that the other members of Europe’s Big Five – France, Germany, Italy and Spain – would line up with it because they supply a significant majority of the finest players at the finals.
These recent remarks will definitely force Blatter to bring the issue on the table at the FIFA executive committee’s next meeting in October. Should Qatar host its 2022 World Cup in the winter, it would be the first time the world’s greatest football showcase is not played in summer, with all the controversy that would entail.
It was uncharted territory when Qatar won the bid to host the World Cup, the first in the Middle East. But Qatar’s heat was not a surprise. Qatar did not suddenly become a hot country. Its summer temperatures were high when it was bidding and remained high when it won the bid. The 24 FIFA officials who voted for Qatar surely could feel the heat. What has changed?

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