|Posted on October 24, 2013 at 2:20 AM|
I think the whole footballing world was under the impression that the 2022 World Cup Finals were to be held in the usual June-July slot even after the shock of Qatar's successful bid. Indeed, the original bid assured the world that the 50 degree heat would not pose a problem and technology would lend a hand. It seems we were all labouring under a misapprehension, as it seems FIFA is now hell-bent on switching the tournament to the Winter.
Had it been up to me, there would have been no chance whatsoever of the bid succeeding, whatever season it would happen in. I understand that FIFA wishes to take its showpiece event outside of the great footballing nations, but Qatar is hardly likely to provide many converts to the beautiful game. It is a tiny Arab state, some 100 miles north to south and only 55 miles at its widest point from east to west, with a population of a mere 1.69 million. It therefore covers an area smaller than the north west of England and has nearly a million fewer inhabitants than the Greater Manchester area. It is a desert nation in the most politically unstable regions on Earth.
Although FIFA has postponed any final decision on when the tournament will take place, it is nigh on certain that it will be the first World Cup ever held during the British Winter. Despite Qatar's assurances of air-conditioned stadia to ensure no-one dies of heat exhaustion whilst inside (hardly an environmentally friendly option, if FIFA is as green as it claims to be), no guarantees could be made for anyone travelling whilst outside! Then there is the security issue. Little is known about policing in Qatar, but it is fair to say that tactics outside of the EU tend to be heavy-handed – as if ours aren't bad enough at times. Even then, I would have serious doubts as to whether the authorities could cope with the enormous number of people expected for a World Cup. Add to this the proximity of nations hostile to Western culture, and there is serious cause for concern. Yes, there are 9 years for the political situation to change, but it is a region tormented by unrest for centuries. Even the optimistic preacher in me says that is unlikely!
But what I am most concerned with is the potential problems it will pose for our domestic game. FIFA seems to be contemplating what compensation packages need to be in place for those leagues operating a Winter season. And what will happen when FIFA seems to be bribing those leagues and leaving the Summer leagues out, especially when they have been compromised every four years of their existence since the World Cup first took place without adequate compensation? A total minefield. There is still no word as to when the World Cup will actually take place, but it is highly likely that it will be at the end of 2022 around November-December. As the World Cup Final tends to take place on a Sunday, it is very possible that it will be on Christmas Day, as that falls on a Sunday that year. That would mean a cast-iron certainty of no Boxing Day games in the Premier and Football Leagues. That is unless the Premier League stood up to FIFA and set up the club v country row to end all club v country rows! In reality, season 2022/23 will start in mid-July and end in late May or possibly early June, unless a fair way of reducing fixtures in at least the top two divisions could be found.
What will it mean for us in non-league football? In all probability, not much. That is unless there is a ban on all competitive football during the World Cup or the highly unlikely scenario of football becoming a Summer sport here - temporarily or otherwise. If this doesn't turn football into a Summer sport, rest assured; nothing will. Assuming therefore that we're not all in Qatar, we could actually get bumper crowds into our clubs to watch real football on our pitches and World Cup matches on our holographic 3-D screens! Of course, we may find our committee a bit thin on the ground, but we managed alright for one game this season with the wedding of the year. We will see, but I am quietly confident that it will do us no harm. Even in the worst case scenario, we'll probably get a month off in the middle of Winter, which is hardly anything new!
Of course, no firm decisions have yet been made on the timing has been made and what happens to our professional leagues is really only guesswork for the moment. And even if there could be an adverse effect for us, we have 9 years to plan for it. If Greg Dyke's vision comes to pass, we could even have the biggest Christmas present English football has ever had! We can but dream. In the meantime we can concentrate on the present moment and watch some proper football!
COME ON COLLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!