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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions