[QATAR 2022]About the only thing for certain about the 2022 World Cup is that it won't played in the summer in Qatar. If, as FIFA president Sepp Blatter proposes, the tournament is moved to the winter in Qatar, the move won't take place without a fight.Just how much a fight U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulatiputs up makes this one of the biggest tests he'll face in his new position as a member of the FIFA executive committee.
Frank Lowy, the billionaire chief of Football Federation Australia, became the latest person to step forward, saying FIFA shouldn't rush into a decision and saying his organization will want the $40 million it invested in its bid back if the FIFA executive committee gives the green light to a switch at its October meeting.
Lowy's remarks came a day after Fox Sports issued a statement condemning FIFA's plans, saying it bid for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup rights on the basis that the tournaments be played in the summer, not winter.
If FIFA were to switch the dates of the 2022 World Cup, it would have to play the tournament in the November-December period instead of January-February because of the conflict with the 2022 Winter Olympics. For Fox, November-December poses a huge programming conflict of its own: NFL and, to a lesser extent, college football.
U.S. television rights to the World Cup have exploded in recent years, and Fox paid $425 million for the 2018-22 package, blowing out of the water the bid of longtime rights holder ESPN for the English-language rights.
"FIFA has informed us that they are considering and voting on moving the 2022 World Cup," Fox said in a statement. "Fox Sports bought the World Cup rights with the understanding they would be in the summer as they have been since the 1930s."
If Fox were to pull out or demand a rebate, it would cost FIFA millions of dollars.
Lowy said FIFA should study any change in timing or venue before making a decision.
"FIFA has an opportunity now to make the best of a bad situation by embarking on a transparent and orderly approach, unlike the process that led to the original flawed decision in December 2010," Lowy said in a statement.
Gulati has came out against making a decision next month.
“I don’t see at this stage, frankly, how I or any member of FIFA’s executive committee could make a sensible decision,” he told the New York Times. “We don’t have enough information, and there are too many questions. I don’t see how anybody in a position of responsibility can take a position without some answers.”
Up until now, the most vehement opposition to a winter World Cup has come from the English Premier League, which generates far more money than any other league in the world but also plays right through the winter.
There are many reasons for Gulati to oppose a switch in timing -- MLS, for one, could lose up to two months of its 2022 season -- and demand a re-vote on the 2022 host -- for which the USA would be the favorite -- but the USA would be in a position to earn enormous political capital for a 2026 bid if it signed off on some kind of 2022 Qatar compromise. (Clouding the political picture is that FIFA has taken away the World Cup rights vote from the executive committee and given it to its 208 members.)
Australia, or Japan and South Korea, the other original 2022 World Cup bidders, wouldn't benefit from any such compromise as the current FIFA regulations prevent the World Cup from going to a country in the same confederation more than once every three cycles.
Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 mean that European and Asian countries wouldn't be eligible to bid for 2026, clearing the deck for a U.S. victory that eluded it in its 2022 campaign because of the massive lobbying by Qatar, which swayed a majority of the FIFA executive committee that it should host the 2022 tournament in the face of FIFA's own report suggesting that holding the tournament in the summer posed considerable dangers.