SO WHAT FIRST ATTRACTED YOU TO THE INCREDIBLY OIL-RICH, POWERFUL QATAR IN THE FIRST PLACE?
AT THEIR two-day meeting in Zurich on October 3/4, FIFA’s executive committee will make the decision to change the timing of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from summer to winter. It is item 25 on the agenda: “2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar: period of the competition.”
FIFA were warned about the dangers of the searing summer heat in Qatar before votes were cast, but in December 2010 the exco still voted in favour of Qatar, who beat the United States 14-8 in the final round of voting. The 2022 World Cup will either be held in January of that year or in November/December. Whenever it is played, there will be widespread disruption to most European leagues with around 15 fixture postponements for Premier League clubs.
Christopher Davies spoke to Martyn Ziegler, chief sports reporter for the Press Association, about the exco meeting.
WHY DID THE FIFA EXCO VOTE FOR QATAR IN THE FIRST PLACE?
The majority of them voted for it with a combination of football political alliances and self interest. Spain’s FIFA member and the South Americans all voted for Qatar in a sort of quid pro quo with the Asians voting for Spain/Portugal for 2018. Nobody denied that was happening. If you believe Michel Platini, he did it because he thinks the World Cup should go to the Middle East as it has never been staged there. Other people did it for, let’s say non-football reasons.
SO HOW DID QATAR WIN?
There is a famous line from Mrs Merton: “So what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?” For Qatar it could be: “So what first attracted you to the incredibly oil-rich, powerful Qatar in the first place?” For example, Qatar had picked up the bill totalling millions of dollars for hosting the African Confederation Congress in Angola. That was deemed to be fair play [in the bidding process].
SEPP BLATTER WANTS THE WORLD CUP MOVED FROM SUMMER TO WINTER. IS THERE ANY CHANCE HE WON’T GET HIS WAY?
No. All 54 national associations in UEFA agreed it could not be played during the summer. So it will either be switched to winter or it gets moved from Qatar and no one close to FIFA thinks for a second that will happen.
THE REASON FOR THE PENDING CHANGE – THE HIGH TEMPERATURES – WERE APPARENT AT THE TIME OF THE VOTE…
FIFA have got themselves into all sorts of difficulties about this. Blatter probably never envisaged Qatar was going to win.
ONLY AROUND HALF OF THE CURRENT EXCO WHO WILL VOTE ON THIS WERE PART OF THE ORIGINAL 2010 PANEL. SOME HAVE DEPARTED IN CONTROVERSIAL CIRCUMSTANCES…
I still think a lot who remain would still vote for Qatar, so if there was a re-vote they’d still win.
FEW PEOPLE HAVE ANY PROBLEMS WITH RUSSIA WINNING THE VOTE FOR 2018…
Russia are the last big football country in Europe never to have staged the World Cup. They also have a very powerful president [Vladimir Putin] who knows how to play the game. FIFA saw how much money they had committed to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and Putin will ensure the money is there is needed [for 2018].
DO YOU AGREE WITH THE CONCEPT OF ROTATING THE WORLD CUP BETWEEN THE CONTINENTS?
To an extent but when it went to South America in 2014 Brazil were the only candidates. No other country came forward so in this respect there is no competition. I don’t think it should be strict rotation, it should be Europe, where club football is focused, every third World Cup.
GOING BACK TO THE EXCO MEETING, WHAT IS THE PROCEDURE?
Blatter will tell the committee that their medical chief thinks the 2022 World Cup should be moved from summer because of the risk to fans. They won’t decide exactly when it will be – November or January – but the committee will be asked to vote in principle for a winter World Cup. Possibly the only dissenting voice will be Sunil Gulati of the USA who thinks it is too early to make such a decision even in principle. Gulati is in a difficult position as he was the leader of the Americans’ rival bid for 2022
WHILE BLATTER IS CORRECT TO SAY FOOTBALL DOESN’T EXIST JUST IN EUROPE, IT THE FINANCIAL POWER OF WORLD FOOTBALL AND A SWITCH TO WINTER WILL CAUSE CHAOS FOR MOST EUROPEAN LEAGUES…
It will cause problems in England especially. In countries where there is a winter break it will cause less disruption. That’s why there hasn’t been quite the same opposition as there has been from the Premier League.
GERMANY HAVE A WINTER BREAK STARTING AROUND THE SECOND WEEKEND IN DECEMBER, WITH A NOVEMBER WORLD CUP IT WOULD IN EFFECT MEANS A BREAK OF THREE MONTHS IN THE BUNDESLIGA…
Most of the Europeans want in to be in January. That would cause a problem with the Winter Olympics so FIFA would have to ensure the World Cup is over before the Games started.There is a view that the 2022 World Cup could be played in April/May but that would affect Cup finals, Champions League finals and so forth.
THERE MUST BE A TWO-WEEK BREAK FROM THE END OF DOMESTIC FOOTBALL AND THE START OF THE WORLD CUP. WHERE WOULD TEAMS PLAY WARM-UP GAMES FOR A JANUARY WORLD CUP?
That is one reason why FIFA won’t make a definite timescale decision yet, though they will want to get it sorted before the World Cup next year. Jerome Valcke, the FIFA general secretary, will get together with people such as Richard Scudamore and heads of national associations to discuss the best way round the switch.
THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE WILL NOT BE AFFECTED, BUT WHAT WILL PREMIER LEAGUE CLUBS DO DURING WHAT WILL AMOUNTS TO A SIX- OR SEVEN-WEEK BREAK IN DOMESTIC FOOTBALL?
Good question. This is something else for the agenda.
FIFA WILL EVENTUALLY SAY THE 2022 WILL BE PLAYED FROM THIS DATE UNTIL THIS DATE. THEN NATIONAL ASSOCIATIONS WILL SOMEHOW HAVE TO STRETCH OR CRAM IN THEIR DOMESTIC PROGRAMME AROUND THE WORLD CUP…
FIFA have influence over the international calendar so they can scrap dates for friendlies. The FA may have to scrap FA Cup replays for a season, everyone will have to give something. Clubs will probably have to play from June through to July
WILL FIFA GIVE UP THEIR CLUB WORLD CUP WHICH IS HELD IN DECEMBER?
They may have to for one year.
BLATTER WANTS THE VOTING PROCESS FOR FUTURE WORLD CUPS TO BE CHANGED, THE DECISION BEING MADE BY THE 200-PLUS FIFA NATIONAL ASSOCIATIONS RATHER THAN THE 24-MEMBER EXCO…
Will that be a good thing? I’m not convinced. In some ways it may be better, in others it may be more challenging. The whole bidding process…who votes, the rules, everything…needs looking at. What has happened with the 2018 and 2022 bids can never happen again.