KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- The World Cup finals will be staged in Qatar in 2022 in November and December if the FIFA executive committee next month rubber-stamps a recommendation drawn up today by the world federation’s ‘calendar committee.’
But ahead of mid-March a great deal of persuasive talking will go on behind the scenes, aimed mainly at convincing Europe’s leagues – which provide 75pc of the World Cup players and all of the superstars – that slashing a hole in their season is not as commercially and popularly deadly as they fear.
Allegations of serious wrongdoing have been dismissed by a FIFA ethics investigation led by now-departed American lawyer Michael Garcia.
A proposal for a May World Cup had been put forward by the European Club Association and the European Professional Football Leagues. But this was rejected. The most likely dates would probably be an Opening Match on November 26 with a World Cup Final on December 23. However these details remain to be decided.
Playing in January/February was ruled out so as to avoid a clash with the Winter Olympic Games which will be staged in Almaty, Kazakhstan, or Beijing, China.
Initially the Qataris had proposed developing revolutionary air-cooling technology for the stadia, training venues and fan zones. This would have been essential in the traditional June/July slot but would be unnecessary in the Gulf state’s winter.
A major complication is that the finals are usually declared a ‘football-free zone’ throughout the world but many European leagues will wish to continue in televisual and commercial competition. This could create a stage for the ultimate head-to-head confrontation between the club game and the national team football.
A FIFA statement said the other dates were not viable and had the full support of all the six confederations. This means that even the European federation, UEFA, had backed the proposal — against the wishes of its big leagues and richest clubs which had suggested a May compromise.
UEFA president Michel Platini had always campaigned for a winter World Cup and had remained relaxed about the disruption both to the domestic leagues and even to the European federations’ own competitions, the Champions League and Europa League.
FIFA’s statement suggested that the disruption could be limited to only one season by switching the 2021 Confederations Cup – the traditional warm-up event – to another Asian nation and staging the 2021 Club World Cup in Qatar as an alternative rehearsal.
The 2023 African Nations Cup would be staged in June instead of the traditonal January/February dates.
Xenophobic howls of outrage from European league football conveniently ignored the fact that most of the rest of the world game runs its season on a spring-to-autumn schedule and has to cope with domestic disruption every four years to allow for the World Cup.
The FIFA statement:
Late-November/late-December proposed for the 2022 FIFA World Cup™
Following a six-month consultation process, FIFA’s Task Force for the International Match Calendar 2018-2024 held its third and final meeting today in Doha, identifying end-November/end-December as the most viable period for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The proposed event dates have the full support of all six Confederations. The proposal will be discussed at the next meeting of the FIFA Executive Committee, scheduled to take place at the Home of FIFA in Zurich on 19 and 20 March 2015.
The outcome of the discussions is also a proposed reduced competition days schedule with the exact dates to be defined inline with the match schedule and number of venues to be used for the 22nd edition of football’s flagship event.
Furthermore, the task force, chaired by Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President and FIFA Executive Committee member Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, was exploring the option of staging the FIFA Confederations Cup 2021 in another AFC country during the traditional June/July window, while another FIFA competition – potentially the FIFA Club World Cup – could be relocated to Qatar to serve as the operational test event for Qatar in November/December 2021.
Various proposals for alternative dates to June/July for the 2022 FIFA World Cup were assessed at the three task force meetings by representatives of the football community at confederation, member association, league and club level as well as representatives of FIFPro, the ECA, the EPFL, the CEO of the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ Local Organising Committee, Hassan Al Thawadi and FIFA’s medical experts.
The analysis aimed to find the most viable solution for all stakeholders, covering the likely and possible impacts of conditions on players, staff and fans, as well as the knock-on effect for domestic leagues. The representatives of the leagues once again emphasised the impact that a November/December tournament would have on their respective calendars.
Given that the two bidding cities for the 2022 Winter Olympics – Almaty (Kazakhstan) and Beijing (China) – pledged recently to host the winter games from 4 to 20 February 2022; that the month of Ramadan begins on 2 April in 2022; and that consistently hot conditions prevail from May to September in Qatar, the only remaining effective option is the November/December window. For legal reasons, the 22nd edition of the FIFA World Cup must be played within the calendar year 2022.
The members deliberated over the various options to determine the least impact on the national and international football calendars.
This included a preliminary discussion on whether the traditional timeframe for the preliminary competition will remain or whether the qualifiers window will be moved to staging the final phase on early 2022.
To finalize the international match calendar for the 2018-2024 period, the Task Force will reconvene in the same composition after the FIFA Executive Committee will have decided on the final 2022 FIFA World Cup dates. The date to be confirmed in due course.
“We are very pleased that, after careful consideration of the various opinions and detailed discussions with all stakeholders, we have identified what we believe to be the best solution for the 2018-2024 international match calendar and football in general.
It was a challenging task and I want to thank all members of the football community for their productive input and constructiveness in helping to find a solution that we believe can work for everyone,” said Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa.
The below graphic and photo (copyright: 2022 LOC) can be used for editorial purposes in relation to this release.