Editorial: Qatar - too hot to handle the 2022 World Cup

Awarding the tournamnet to the oil-rich Middle Eastern country was not about football but politics and money
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The Independent Online

Greg Dyke arrived at the BBC with a reputation for direct common sense. Or cutting the crap, as he put it. He is doing the same now in his role as the new chairman of the Football Association.

On Friday, he challenged the barmy decision of the world football authorities to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar where the summer temperatures soar to 50C. Such heat will almost certainly induce sunstroke among ticketless fans watching on giant outdoor screens. And it will confine players, officials and ticketed fans in energy-sapping air-conditioned stadiums, in spectacular defiance of concerns about man-made global warming.

This is clearly a nonsense, Dyke announced. The tournament will either have to be moved or played during the winter when temperatures fall to the merely hot.

There is a precedent for shifting the location of the World Cup. The 1986 tournament was awarded to Colombia but then switched to Mexico when it became clear the original hosts were not up to the task. But a change away from oil-rich Qatar is not likely. This is not about football so much as an unholy alliance of international politics and big money after a backroom deal was done to award the tournament to Russia in 2018 and Qatar four years later. Fifa, the world football authority which made the decision, despite advice from its own inspection team which found the Qatar bid to be "high risk", is a dodgy international quango from which the rank stench of corruption over allegations of bribery, illegal payments and financial irregularities has regularly risen.

Even Fifa's inept, arrogant, sexist president Sepp Blatter admitted a few months ago that it was "not rational" to play in such heat. But he has failed satisfactorily to explain why the World Cup was given to Qatar in the first place. On top of that, there are unanswered questions about the country's human rights record, a factor to which Fifa has been as blind as were other sporting authorities for holding Formula One races in Bahrain and tennis championships in Dubai.

An unsatisfactory outcome appears guaranteed now whatever decision is taken. The UK's Premier League and Germany's Bundesliga have expressed alarm at the disruptive impact a shift to the winter would have on football leagues around the world. It would mean a six-week hiatus in domestic football which would affect broadcasting deals and possibly require the rewriting of every player's contract. Clubs may even refuse permission for players to join their national team.

Conversely, moving the contest from Qatar would open up the possibility of legal challenges from the nations who made unsuccessful bids for the 2022 tournament. The United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia all lost to Qatar. Either way, the result could be as divisive and litigious as anything the game of football has ever seen.

The consequences go beyond the arena of internal sporting politics or the interests of one game and its fans. Football is big business as well as mass entertainment but it is something more. The loyalty and identity it inspires is an important thread in the modern social fabric, nationally and internationally. Global sporting events, like the Olympics or World Cup, are part of what bring the diverse countries of the world into a commonwealth of nations. The management of such events should not be left to the mercy of a self-serving, bungling body like Fifa.