World Cup Q&A: How did the 2014 tournament in Qatar end up as a winter of discontent?
There are still more questions than answers regarding the 2022 World Cup. Robin Scott-Elliot attempts to make some sense of the madness
Thursday 03 October 2013
How did Fifa get the World Cup into this mess?
Qatar were the surprise winners in December 2010 of Fifa's vote to determine the hosts for the 2022 World Cup. It certainly came as a surprise to Fifa's president Sepp Blatter, believed to have backed the US bid, and to Australia, Japan and South Korea, who were also bidding.
Initially the choice of Qatar slipped under the radar in this country with the focus on England's disastrous bid to host the 2018 finals. That vote was settled on the same day – in Russia's favour – and it was Fifa's initial decision to choose two hosts at the same time, thereby opening up a chaotic and poorly policed race, with nine different bids for the two tournaments simultaneously jostling for position and looking to win friends and influence people.
Qatar's bid was ranked second from bottom of the 2022 pile by Fifa's inspection team but the Qataris spent huge sums in recruiting high-profile frontmen, such as Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola. And they earned political support too, particularly from the French. Michel Platini has long been a Qatar supporter.
Come the vote it took Qatar four rounds – Russia needed two – to win enough support, although they did attract the most votes in every round. It came down to them against the US and Fifa's executive committee voted 14-8 in Qatar's favour.
So will it take place in Qatar?
Almost certainly. Michael Garcia, the head of the investigatory side of Fifa's ethics committee, is currently carrying out an investigation into ample claims of corruption levied against both the 2018 and 2022 votes and were he to discover a smoking gun then there remains the possibility of the 2022 finals being moved. That, though, remains an option only for American optimists (they are the most likely beneficiaries of any switch) to cling on to.
Fifa insisted the finals would take place in the Gulf – any attempt to move them would have the Qataris heading for the nearest courtroom at high speed – and a change of venue appears improbable despite the escalation of concerns over the treatment of workers in Qatar.
Will anything be done to protect foreign construction workers in the wake of revelations that lives have been lost – is that not enough to threaten Qatar's status as host?
The Qataris were in town to present an update on their preparations to Fifa, and the issue of workers' rights will be directly considered today. Blatter will face questions at the post-meeting press conference on the issue and will need to produce a convincing response.
Hassan al-Thawadi, the head of the Qatari organising committee, said he was "appalled" by the reports of serious maltreatment, and even deaths, of a number of Nepalese labourers, and insisted the government was taking steps to address the issue. He said: "If the World Cup is doing anything it is accelerating a number of these initiatives."
How likely is any of this saga to include a legal chapter?
All parties will strive to keep it in-house as any legal moves would be hugely damaging and potentially escalate rapidly.
The Australians, who spent an estimated £25m on their bid for 2022, have been making noises about compensation. Broadcasters too will keep options open, while Europe's major leagues will be watching every step with the eyes of a hawk.
Fifa remains potentially vulnerable over the terms of the original bid. The bid documents clearly state the 2022 tournament was listed as "scheduled" to be played in the summer.
However, Fifa insists that was not a binding commitment. Blatter and others have since justified a potential switch by claiming a summer tournament was only ever intended "in principle", but those key words are absent from the text.
What about a re-vote then?
The chairman of the Football League, Greg Clarke, who was involved with England's 2018 bid, is among those who believe Fifa should do it all again as it was sold to the bidders as a summer tournament. This will not happen, though, not least as Qatar say they were bidding for a summer tournament and remain able to stage it in the summer.
Then Qatar it is and a World Cup that will have to be played in the winter?
That remains the likeliest option – at the moment. There is a growing acceptance around the parties involved that a winter World Cup will take place some time in 2022 – so long as it is a one-off. There is still plenty of haggling to be done over exactly when in 2022, and the thorny issue of possible compensation to TV companies, but despite Qatar's insistence that they can hold the tournament in the summer and suggestions that June and July are still an option – when night-time temperatures stay at around 30C – a switch from the traditional date seems certain to be agreed some time next year.
If it is in winter, when will it take place?
There are two winter options, and just to further complicate matters, one spring one as well. A November/December tournament is the one most favoured by Fifa, not least as it would avoid upsetting the International Olympic Committee, who will have a Winter Games at the start of the 2022. The IOC would not take kindly to their event being overshadowed by football.
But the early winter date would not please Uefa as it would mean a rethink for the lucrative group stages of the Champions League – Michel Platini leans very much towards January/February, which strays back into the IOC's territory…
The other potentially key players are the broadcasters. February means the Super Bowl – usually at the start of the month – and Fox, which paid £265m for rights to 2018 and 2022, does not want the two events to collide. Fifa is publicly denying there will be any compensation paid but some form of renegotiation with broadcasters is almost certain. The prospect of a tournament played in April/May has also been suggested, which may yet emerge as the preferred alternative. It would mean domestic seasons ending early, but not being interrupted, while broadcasters too may come to regard it as the least worst solution.
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