Marco Cerino on why The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is a bad, bad move from FIFA.
Four years ago, FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to the Middle East nation of Qatar… to the surprise and protest of many. Fans who wanted to return the tournament to the US smelled a rat and claimed chicanery.
Investigation brought talk of bribes from Asia’s football confederation to secure the event, but no “smoking gun.”
The build-up to the tournament has been fraught with controversy and demands to move the Cup. The building of stadiums has created inhumane work conditions that sullied the run-up to the 2014 WC Finals.
On September 22, a German member of FIFA’s Executive Board suggested the 2022 Finals should move from Qatar because the weather will be so oppressively hot in the summer.
Even if the Garcia Report probe commissioned by FIFA can’t produce tangible evidence of bribery, FIFA has enough reason to move the event to another nation. Here are four reasons why:
Qatar Isn’t Ready To Host A Huge Global Event
FIFA has done well in past decades at building a global brand of soccer by awarding the World Cup Finals to non-soccer powerhouses. Twenty years ago, the tournament was a huge success in the United States, which gave way to the country starting a domestic league.
Co-host South Korea made the semifinals in 2002, while South Africa received a boost, despite having a poor showing four years ago. Similar intentions helped bring the World Cup Finals to the Middle East.
The oil nation on the Persian Gulf certainly has the money to invest into a great international event. However, the country is smaller than the state of Connecticut and lacks multiple major cities like Australia or other, larger nations.
Qatar doesn’t have the population to sustain a domestic league or to fill eight to 10 huge stadiums. The same decrying of Sochi’s billion-dollar spending for venues, which won’t be used after the Winter Olympic Games, will echo in the empty stadiums in Qatar.
Lacking the native population to build these new soccer cathedrals, Qatar imported laborers for construction. Reports stemming from this are harrowing. Apparently, hundreds have already died while thousands more live in squalid conditions and work under oppressive heat.
The hurry-up we saw in Brazil to complete the projects could mean a human rights disaster if that happens in Qatar. The current political climate in the Middle East right puts too much at risk if the showcase takes place in Qatar.
UEFA won’t allow Israel to host its Euro 2016 qualifiers and home legs of Europa League contests because of the volatile atmosphere from recent Gaza fighting. The World Cup Finals could draw all sorts of terrorist groups and anti-Islam forces to the biggest global event.
Qatar doesn’t have the best human rights record, so any protests could be violently quashed in record time.
The World Cup Is Meant To Be A Summer Event
The two greatest events in the global sports world are the Olympics and the World Cup. Nothing brings people together like these spectacles. Their most common bond is the summer timing, which allows fans in most industrialized of nations to follow religiously.
A late fall tournament throws a variety of problems at FIFA that they’ll need to solve. While the November timing will certainly avoid the prime heat of summer, fans will not be able to show up in droves so close to winter holidays. Also, anyone who has lived in or near a desert knows that it gets cold at night in those months.
Sounds pretty inconvenient to me.
Don’t Make It Harder For Your Business Partners
FIFA can learn a lot from the current NFL issues and how such issues make doing business more difficult. Fans who monitor the workers’ conditions surrounding the stadium buildings have begun to complain to FIFA’s major sponsors, like Coca-Cola.
American-based partners may be subject to more intense scrutiny from advocacy groups and even the government. We’re eight years out, and the questions are already starting; if this continues, corporate money might bail.
In modern sports, there’s one major revenue source that fuels these events: television rights. FIFA makes a killing from major international companies, like Sky Sports and other soccer-centric networks. Those companies need content in the summer and love the ratings the World Cup gets.
Plopping the Finals in the domestic and Champions League month is a great way to demand they negotiate lower fees. One of FIFA’s biggest growth areas is the United States. The Americans were the largest foreign contingent this summer in Brazil, as they bought more than a million tickets.
Major League Soccer plays in the summer and has grown well in the March-October schedule. The World Cup would struggle to find a network in the start of basketball and hockey seasons and the back half of football, both college and professional.
Even if Fox aired games on Thanksgiving, numbers would suffer and the overall effect would be watered down.
What Can FIFA Do?
Theo Zwanziger, the executive board member who raised concerns yesterday, is on the right track by demanding the event be moved.
I don’t think Asia will be able to find a suitable replacement nation to host the Finals besides Australia. Too many countries would feature similar concerns about unsafe weather conditions, be it desert heat or tropical monsoons.
Other logistical problems would arise, ranging from lacking infrastructure, insufficient funding and unwelcoming nations, which would keep fans and their money at home.
Many signs point to moving the Finals to the United States. NFL and college football stadiums have successfully hosted huge crowds for international soccer events and will draw the fans for the World Cup.
If they don’t move the 2022 Finals, FIFA should honor the American commitment to the sport with hosting duties by 2030.
About the author
Marco Cerino works in sports and is a man of many talents and passions. He enjoys walking around cities, drinking craft beers, and watching his Philadelphia sports teams. A 2007 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he hopes to better understand humanity everyday and that his enjoyment of learning never wanes.
This article originally appeared on Elite Daily.
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