In December 2010, when football’s governing body FIFA announced that the Qatar would be staging the 2022 World Cup, the decision was greeted warmly in some quarters but with real scepticism by others. Although it was accepted that the Arabic world deserved an opportunity to organise footballs premier tournament, the prevalent and extreme heat in that part of the world rendered its practicability virtually untenable especially during the summer.
Qatar defeated main opponents Australia in being awarded the 2022 World Cup and it has always been viewed as controversial decision amid claims that favourable financial inducements existed during their successful bidding process. That FIFA are now considering moving the tournament to the winter, to avoid the soaring summer temperatures, is tantamount to admitting that the award may have been a mistake.
Now, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman of the Eoropean Club Association (ECA) has apparently opened talks with Sepp Blatter of FIFA concerning the possibility of stage the Qatar competition in April 2022. After FIFA asked for ideas on the appropriate time of the year for this World Cup, it now appears that every season is under discussion apart from autumn.
With a decision not expected until 2014 at the earliest, a serious disruption of the European football calendar is now anticipated and not just for 2022, as earlier and subsequent campaigns may also be affected.
A winter tournament may cause less disruption for those countries adopting a Christmas and New Year break in their calendars assuming that current football seasons remain similar to existing patterns. Footballers selected for the tournament would forgo their winter break which may ultimately affect their subsequent club performances during spring. The 2021-22 season would probably be extended with the 2022-23 campaigns starting sometime in September.
That is potentially the best case scenario, but an April tournament may cause even more problems. What then happens to the winter break, a necessity in many European countries, and when will the main European football campaigns be concluded with spring normally being the period when domestic leagues and cup competitions arrive at their finale.
There is also the possibility that club teams with players performing for countries experiencing a quick elimination may gain an advantage with the early return to action of their personnel.
The decision to award the World Cup for 2022 so early may now be viewed in hindsight as a shrewd move as so much needs to be resolved before Qatar can stage the competition. This would not have been the case had Australia been awarded the tournament for the first time and where their winter conditions would have been prevalent.