KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY
** Michel Platini’s carelessly casual assertion that Europe’s leagues need halt for ‘only’ five weeks between mid-November and late December to accommodate a winter World Cup in 2022 has been well and truly exploded.
UEFA’s French president even assisted in exploding that simplistic fallacy himself when, as a vice-president of the world federation, he was a party to the approval of scheduling details for Brazil 2014.
FIFA’s executive committee has been meeting all week, ticking off all the house-keeping demanded by its competitions, development programmes and reform process. President Sepp Blatter hurried home to Zurich from the opening of the Under-17 Women’s World Cup to guide the debate.
Details for the 2014 World Cup finals were confirmed yesterday/Thursday by FIFA. Kickoff times and criteria for the run-all-over-the-place schedule need not be of concern at this moment – though they will be after fans wake up to the likely cost of following their national team up and down the eastern seaboard of South America.
The release date for players in 2014 is May 19. This ensures they have a week’s break before joining up with their national teams not before May 26 at the earliest. The tournament then begins on June 12 with the final in the redeveloped Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on July 13.
Players who have contested at least the semis and the final would need a further week or even two to celebrate, fly home, wind down and then wind themselves up again for a resumption of club activity (pre-season training, in the case of 2014).
It does not take an Einstein, merely access to a calendar, to work out that clubs in the main World Cup competitor nations must write off their players for eight weeks minimum or 10 maximum.
Now, take those same figures and convert them for the winter World Cup which, Platini believes, can be accomplished quickly and easily in early winter in Qatar in 2022.
Almost all European leagues now – with the exception of Britain, of course – take a break for the weekend closest to Christmas. So this could be factored into the 10-week time allowance essential for the Italian, Portuguese and Spanish leagues.
Premier League prime time
The Christmas/New Year period is, of course, a hectic time in the English Premier League. Either the clubs must suspend the multi-match tradition or accept that many of their stars will not be up to the challenge so soon after the World Cup.
Now, count back in the other direction: Assume that the 2022 World Cup Final takes place on Sunday, December 18. Accepting that players should be released eight weeks before the Final takes them all the way back to a club release date of Sunday, October 30.
Hence England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy and Spain (who supply a majority of the World Cup players between them) must write off their elite leagues for two months, not five weeks (FIFA would also have to accept that lower leagues play on, another issue).
The Premier League has already rattled a sabre or two in Platini’s direction over his winter World Cup wonderland.
Platini believes a one-off winter switch is a practical probability for 2022 . . . the calendar context of the 2014 finals reveals such a proposal as more like a desert mirage.
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Also at www.WorldSoccer.com
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