Winter World Cup a scheduling nightmare

It is not difficult to see that arranging a World Cup in November and December is going to be hugely problematic to schedule, after a FIFA delegation recommended on Tuesday that the 2022 event in Qatar be moved from its traditional June-July slot.

Frankly, it is great that sanity has prevailed since hosting such a large competition during the summer months in Qatar is a recipe for disaster. Considering the high temperatures in the country during that time of year, it may be possible to construct air-conditioned stadiums – as was suggested in the original bid tabled in 2009.

Temperatures in excess of 40 °C on a daily basis are just too much for the thousands of spectators who are likely to visit the Qatar and a whole country can't be air-conned.

However, the fact that it took FIFA more than five years to come to the conclusion that the original proposed dates are unworkable just illustrates how little thought had gone into the Qatar bid in the first place. 

A winter World Cup should have been the basis of their bid from the off.

It also shows how eager FIFA were to award the event to the Arab nation without thinking the consequences through properly, although one suspects an incredible amount of money changed hands in order to grease the wheels, so to speak.

Actually arranging a World Cup on the proposed dates – the final is rumoured to be scheduled for December 23 – is a massive headache for domestic football worldwide, but the European clubs in particular, where most of the players that take part in the event are likely to come from: more than three quarters of the players in Brazil 2014 were plying their trade in Europe.

For countries like Germany and France, where they already have a break over the winter months, the disruption to the domestic setup may be less severe; in countries like England the interruption to their domestic competitions is likely to be extreme.

It normally takes about six weeks to play all the matches in a 32-team World Cup, and considerably longer should the event be expanded as has been rumoured. All the participating teams would also want to hold training camps and a couple of friendlies before the start of the event. Realistically, a nine-week hole in the middle of the season.

It would also have a dramatic effect on the scheduling of the seasons either side of the 2022/23 one, in order to ensure that the players actually have a decent rest period after the World Cup, as well as between seasons.

Not to mention the increased risk of injury to players due to the shorter rest times that is likely in the lead-up to the event.

Furthermore, the Africa Cup of Nations is scheduled for January-February 2023. What of the African teams and their players who qualify for Qatar, who will be required to start preparing for that event as soon as they are knocked out of the World Cup? How many games will they be playing that season?

Whilst a winter World Cup might be an interesting concept, if one looks at it objectively, the process and subsequent decision-making by the sport's governing body, as well as the disruption to the domestic structures world-wide clearly shows that the Qatar event has never been about the football.

Money talks, after all…

By Barend Prins

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