Qatar World Cup: Now to shoe-horn a global event into the sports calendar

The fiasco that is moving the Qatar World Cup to the winter means that the planet's biggest sporting occasion will put many noses out of joint

Greg Dyke is not the only one to have his eye on Qatar 2022. It has held the focus of the game's blazerati ever since that fateful December day in Zurich three years ago when the small but hugely wealthy Gulf state was chosen by Fifa's executive committee to host the World Cup finals.

It is still nine years distant but no World Cup has ever exerted such a long-term grip on the game. Dyke wants England to turn up and win it, the rest of the football world just wants to know when to turn up.

The vote in Qatar's favour surprised most on the outside and many within the governing body as well – but not all. It did not surprise Michel Platini, the president of Uefa and one of the few to have since declared publicly that he voted for the Qatari bid. Within days Platini, who has steadfastly denied supporting Qatar on the say-so of the then French president Nicolas Sarkozy, was raising the issue of moving the finals.

This is Platini speaking a little more than a week after the Qatari bid team had returned home victorious: "It's true that if we talk about the World Cup in the Gulf in January, that would be easier than to play in June. On that I agree, and why not? It's possible."

Three years later Platini seems set to get his wish – at least in that the tournament will not be played in its traditional summer slot. Whether it is played in January is a topic that football's various governing bodies have still to thrash out and somebody will be left unhappy.

Sepp Blatter, Fifa's president, admitted recently that his organisation might have made a "mistake" in awarding the finals to Qatar. Then earlier this week he suggested that "direct political influence" had played a key role in making up the minds of his executive committee to vote in Qatar's favour. Next month, on 3 and 4 October, the world governing body's executive committee will meet in Zurich and is expected to agree in principle that the 2022 World Cup will not take place in the summer.

Then the debate will begin in earnest on just when the world's biggest sporting event can be shoe-horned into a calendar that appears as flexible as a Sam Allardyce game plan. A January start, as favoured by Platini and Uefa, would upset the International Olympic Committee as it would overshadow the Winter Olympics.

An autumn event would upset Uefa because of its impact on the Champions League. A January start would infuriate Fox, who paid a record $425m for rights to the 2018 and 2022 finals. A start in January or the autumn would upset Europe's powerful clubs. There are a lot of noses to be put out of joint.

And accompanying it all will be more of the politicking that helped Fifa make such a mess of the greatest game's greatest stage.

Blatter's assertion that outside forces played a part in helping win Qatar the vote appears an unveiled criticism of Platini – who is seen by many as the Swiss's likeliest successor as Fifa president. While the majority of the Ex-co, a body that was badly damaged by a string of corruption allegations against some members around the time of the World Cup vote and in the months that followed, have not revealed who they supported for 2022, Platini has made no secret of where his vote went. He has at least been open from the start.

Blatter is supposed to step down in 2015 when his fourth term as president comes to an end. By then he will be approaching his 80th birthday but there is a growing belief that he will run for office again, not least to block Platini. Moves to wash his hands of any fault for Qatar – Blatter is adept at the cleaning game – will no doubt continue.

The Qatar shambles, the suggestion goes, is no fault of his, rather look at those who supported it. Blatter is an arch-politician, a survivor and will not be sunk – to borrow from his favourite book of maritime metaphors – by this latest Fifa fiasco on his watch. The commission investigating the 2022 vote and its surrounds will not threaten the president.

How much Platini was involved in persuading his European members to agree with him in favouring a January switch remains to be seen but they have come round to his point of view. There is still much sand to be sifted through before the dates will be settled, and Dyke can make a note in his long-term diary. But that Fifa and Uefa will settle on a winter date now appears all but certain.

Europe's leagues and clubs remain opposed, and there remains the possibility of a recourse to the courts. Fifa insists there will be no compensation paid to anybody. But realpolitik suggests that agreement will be reached somewhere in the murky middle.

For Uefa the stress on this being a one-off is a key part to any agreement. Uefa, suggested one member, would allow this once and once only, and that is a template that may well be extended across the continent to include the clubs.

"As an exception and that is it," said Aivar Pohlak, president of the Estonian FA, summing it up neatly. "As a one-time problem it can be handled."

Qatar timeline: How the decision has unravelled

2 December 2010 Qatar wins rights to 2022 World Cup

The Middle East state is awarded the rights to host the 22nd staging of the tournament, beating off rival bids from the United States, South Korea, Japan and Australia.

7 January 2011 Blatter backs Winter Cup

Fifa president Sepp Blatter supports initial idea of a winter tournament, with Uefa president Michel Platini later following suit.

24 March 2012 Stadium amendments

Qatar announce plans for artificial clouds and air conditioning inside stadiums to cope with the soaring heat during any summer tournament.

16 May 2013 Blatter U-turn

Months after again advocating a summer event, Blatter changes tack, claiming playing the tournament in the summer heat is "not rational and reasonable".

July "A blatant mistake"

Blatter is now determined to move the World Cup to winter, while a Fifa committee member calls the original decision a "blatant mistake".

August FA confirm position

New Football Association chairman Greg Dyke says a summer World Cup would be "impossible". "You can't play it in the summer," he maintains.

August Fifa to meet to discuss change

Blatter announces a meeting to discuss moving to winter, while also admitting for the first time that awarding Qatar the tournament may have been "a mistake".

10 September European clubs favour winter

Europe's top clubs "open" to winter Cup. "It is probably better," Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, European Club Association chair, says.

17 September Australia after compensation

Football Federation Australia chair Frank Lowy says they could try for compensation on the grounds Qatar won the bid as a summer tournament.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee