This much we know: the 2022 FIFA World Cup is going to get played, probably in Qatar, but maybe not in the summer, when the World Cup usually takes place. The controversial Qatar plan, which has been dogged by all sorts of issues including corruption and human rights violations, took another twist on Wednesday when FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told a French radio station that he thinks the tournament would be played in the winter months.
Valcke didn’t break any new ground. Almost from the time the 2022 tournament was awarded to the small Middle Eastern state in 2009, rumors have swirled about moving the tournament to the winter. Somehow during the bidding process, nobody at FIFA HQ realized it might not be the smartest idea to host a tournament when the average summer temperature tops 100 degrees.
What winter months is Valcke talking about? Sometime between Nov. 15 and Jan. 15, when temperatures are regularly a much more reasonable 77 degrees.
FIFA being FIFA, Valcke’s comments came as a surprise to one of the organizations vice presidents, Jim Boyce, who said nothing had been officially discussed. Naturally it made FIFA backtrack from what Valcke said earlier in the day.
Boyce was quoted saying: “100% I can confirm that the FIFA executive committee has not decided to move the World Cup.” He went on to say a decision won’t be made about moving the tournament until the end of 2014 or early 2015. Confused yet?
But there are many reasons why these dates won’t work. The leading European clubs and leagues might put up a stink if the winter World Cup alters their calendar. The AP’s Rob Harris broke down exactly what a November/December World Cup would look like, and it’s not that unreasonable. In short, the 2022-23 European club season would begin in mid-July, rather than mid-August and finish closer to June, as opposed to May. The two-month break for the World Cup itself would be a headache, but if it’s only a one-time switch, figure everyone can live with it even if they’re grinding their teeth the entire time.
The bigger controversy could arise from the broadcasters who hold the rights for the 2022 tournament and bid on it expecting it to be in the traditional summer months. In September, reports arose that FOX, which paid $425 million for the rights to the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, was upset with the idea of a winter World Cup since it bid for summer programming. If the World Cup were played in November and December, it would clash with FOX’s NFL, college football and college basketball coverage, and the network might have to re-work its winter primetime TV lineup. (And the NBA too, if Fox gets NBA rights, like many expect.)
This would be a disaster for casual soccer fans in America, who like the sport but only tend to focus on the World Cup. Playing games in the winter, likely in the mid-day range, when so much else is crowding the sports landscape is a recipe for disaster. If you’re an American soccer fan, hope the comments FOX analyst Eric Wynalda told The Big Lead back in October are accurate, that a Qatar World Cup never happens and somehow FIFA decides to re-vote on the 2022 tournament due to all the controversies and logistical nightmares staging the tournament there have caused.
Makes you wonder, why did FIFA pick Qatar in the first place?
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