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Winter World Cup in Qatar

By Simon Allen



 Recently The Scottish FA gave its thumbs up to the World Cup to be switched to winter in 2022.

"We'd quite happily play the World Cup in the North Pole on Christmas Day," said SFA chief executive Stewart Regan.

(Maybe Scotland will have a good team by then.)

Scotland have failed to qualify for a major finals since the 1998 World Cup in France. Not only Scotland but UEFA's 54 member associations said it would be okay to swap a Summer World Cup in Qatar for a Winter World Cup in Qatar.

Of course not everyone is happy about the swap. The BBC reported that, “The English Premier League declined to comment, but has always opposed a switch and together with other European Leagues has called for there to be no definitive decision...and a full consultative process.”

Premier League's chief Executive Richard Scudamore went on record saying that a Winter World Cup in Qatar would not only be bothersome to the 2021-22 Premier League Season it would disrupt part of the season before and after the World Cup. This, quite rightly, is a legitimate concern for The Premier League and English clubs but when has Sepp Blatter or FIFA really cared about the Premier League and English clubs?

Jim Boyce, FIFA's Vice President said “...the main objectors...are The Premier League and I can understand why because there's a lot of money involved.”

Scudamore responded to BBC Sport. "It was no secret that it is hot in Qatar in the summer,"

(About 122 degrees Fahrenheit but don't worry! It's a dry heat!)

"The people who voted for that did so with the full knowledge of the implications of what it meant. If they are now deciding that was the wrong decision, then their simple solution of just moving it to the winter is the wrong way to go...We are a winter game...What I don't want is our game pushed back until June and July. It doesn't work for English football. We have other sports. What would happen to cup competitions, like the FA Cup - things that are unique and important to English football? The practical implications of moving it are huge."

Not surprisingly, while shooting a Subway Sandwich endorsement in New York, Pele told reporters, “Of course they can play (in the Summer), no problem!”

Of course, it's all about the safety of the players and fans of the beautiful game in Qatar. No one in the world wants to see a soccer player die on the pitch. No one on Earth wants to see fans die in the stands. For Logical reasons, for humane reasons, the World Cup has to be the safest sporting event in the world. And for those reasons alone the World Cup should be moved to the winter.

Originally, I disliked the idea because I really want to see technology at work. I really wanted to see how an oil rich nation would utilize the best minds in the fields of environmental engineering, architecture and science to come up with brilliant and beautiful solutions to combat the heat during the summer World Cup. Throughout the campaign to get the World Cup to Qatar, the folks in charge of the bid process said that all 12 of the World Cup stadiums would be “air conditioned to 79 degrees Fahrenheit."

In March of this year, spokespersons for Qatar said, “We committed considerable resources during the bidding process to prove that the cooling technology (which will cool open-air stadiums, training grounds and outdoor fan areas) works. The technology is already in use since 2008 at Al Sadd Stadium....We are offering solutions to keep players and fans cool and comfortable- and developing those solutions to ensure they are environmentally sustainable.”

And that's where my mind started to wander and wonder. By 2022 could there very well be Stadiums in the desert that were cool enough for players to play in and spectators to watch in? Could there be man made clouds that would be controlled to hover over the stadium? Floating Airships to shade the people around the city? Could there be hybrid fake/real grass that could grow in desert climates without the need for watering? Wind pockets and Wind corridors that could direct cool air from as yet to be discovered sources through the city cooling it at certain times of the day-could that be in Qatar's World Cup future? Zero carbon footprint generators using solar to power the new stadiums? Yes! Rather than talking about the football I was imagining what science coupled with a boat load of money could change for the better. The new stadiums, designed by Albert Speer and Partner GmbH, were already focused on exploiting “...the extreme environmental conditions...by channeling the sunlight to generate a large portion of the stadiums power using solar technology...making the 2022 FIFA World Cup the first ever cooled outdoor sporting event.”

And this wasn't just lip service to get the World Cup. The designs for the new stadiums were gorgeous. Works of Art. But the commitment to the technology was also there. And it didn't take long. A year later at an Architecture Forum in Doha, Arup Associates, the folks on the leading edge of the technology to create a cooler World Cup came out and showcased to the world what they could do in that field. Flash forward to today and you can visit their website to see the “World's First Carbon Zero Stadium.”

So plainly stated. The players and folks inside the stadiums could very well be playing in 76 degree weather by the time 2022 rolls around. By then, Adidas may come up with a new fiber technology that “air conditions” your skin the more you sweat and Nike will come up with a pair of boots with its own fridge unit to keep your toes from turning into mini saveloys. Technology grows in leaps and bounds (especially when you throw money at it) and who's to say that by 2022 full climate control can be achieved so that the World Cup can be played during the Summer. Oil money created a Ski resort in Dubai so anything is possible!

So the idea of moving the World Cup to Winter for the sake of player safety may be a non-point. With that said all of a sudden there's a shift to fan safety when it comes to the heat of the Summer. I was talking about this with a few folks at the pub recently (it's where I do my best research!) and the idea of the fan being safe “outside of the 12 venues” is an odd one. After all, people go about their day to day lives in Qatar in the summer. They watch football in the summer. I'm sure that the heat is a problem and no one's playing racquetball and drinking warm ginger ale at noon but I honestly don't think fans outside of the stadium will be in that much danger.

"The problems you can raise are how the number of fans who go to the World Cup can cope with the heat and with the conditions that are extreme in the summer, that is the main worry...I hope when FIFA made their decisions, they considered that because it is the only worry...The stadiums will be air conditioned, but you cannot have that in every street.” That's a quote from Arsene Wenger! To which I respond “Why not?” technology+money=anything is possible.

Sepp Blatter and FIFA have bigger fish to fry when it comes the World Cup in Qatar.It's been plagued with controversy and suspicion from day one and it continues to today.

The International Trade Union Confederation claimed that Qatar is essentially delivering the World Cup “on the back of a system of modern day slavery...” with reports of 4,000 migrant workers dying on the job.

Director of Football Against Racism, Piara Powar is on mission to change Qatar's Anti-Gay Legislation. “Qatar is one of the few countries where homosexuality is...illegal...” said Powar

“Qatar...will want to present an internationally welcoming face and with FIFA's help we are sure it will be possible to...change the law on homosexuality....(football fans of all sexualities)...need to feel comfortable...(when traveling to the tournament)” added Powar.

And of course Australia wanting the money they spent on bidding for the World Cup back (not as serious as the previous two but worth talking about!) is also a kind of a biggy. Australia wants it 25 million pounds back and they weren't afraid to ask for it. When asked if FIFA would compensate Australia by reporters in Buenos Aries, Jerome Valcke, FIFA General Secretary, responded with “No, No, No. Compensation is a word you should never use”

(That money was spent on hookers and booze a long time ago!)

FIFA is worried about the comfort of the fans in extreme heat. Something that can be fixed with technology. FIFA should have really planned ahead about the comfort of the LGBT community at a World Cup and said “no thanks” to Qatar. The idea of slave labor building the technological wonders and dying in the process is also something FIFA should have foreseen and taken a pass. A World Cup in the Winter is the least of the worries.

It's probably, 99%, maybe, almost surely  going to happen anyway. Sepp Blatter will do what he wants and use any reason to get the Winter World Cup done. Any opposition will fall to the side and there really isn't any one that can “change his mind.”

Except for this guy! James Murdoch!

From an article in Bloomberg “James Murdoch, the son of 21st Century Fox Inc. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, and other network executives told FIFA that moving the competition by several months from its usual June start to the winter would clash with National Football League games, according to one person familiar with the matter. The people requested anonymity because the talks were private.”

“FIFA’s executive board is meeting next month to discuss a proposal by the Zurich-based organization’s president, Sepp Blatter, to reschedule the tournament because of the high temperatures in Qatar. Fox in 2011 agreed to pay $425 million for the two-tournament, 2018-22 package, more than four times what current rights holder ESPN paid for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and next year’s edition in Brazil.”

(and this is the best quote!)

“FIFA has informed us that they are considering and voting on moving the 2022 World Cup,” Fox said in an e-mailed statement. “Fox Sports bought the World Cup rights with the understanding they would be in the summer as they have been since the 1930s.”

(Fox telling FIFA that a Winter World Cup is not good for business!)

So the whole Winter Summer debate might not be over. Until then FIFA can take care of the issues that are plaguing the Qatar World Cup. Slave Labor, Anti-Gay Laws, Corruption. Blatter can let the Qataris throw giant bags of money at technological advances in climate control as well and perhaps with the money men at Fox telling them that there's no such thing as a Winter World Cup...fans from around the world can watch a safe and exciting tournament.

At the Pub we wagered if the 2022 Tournament would be in the Winter or the Summer. The Winners collect eight years from now. I bet Summer!