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FIFA won't throw Qatar under the bus
by Paul Kennedy, October 4th, 2013 12:27AM

TAGS:  fifa, world cup 2022


[WORLD CUP 2022] Qatar 2022 is three World Cups away, but it continues to dominate the international soccer news. More trouble with Brazil 2014 stadiums? Hooliganism and racism and anti-gay laws in Russia, the 2018 host? Who cares?

After the first day of two days of FIFA executive committee meetings in Zurich, the only thing that seems certain is that FIFA still plans to hold the World Cup in Qatar. Just when it will take place in 2022 remains to be seen.

FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio said on Thursday that the 2022 World Cup will be played in Qatar.

"No doubt," he said. "What is open to question is if we play in winter, and if so, is it November, December, January? I don't know..."

Since Qatar surprised the world and won the right to host the 2022 World Cup with a 14-8 vote of the executive committee over the USA on the fourth ballot, it has been dogged by accusations that it bribed executive committee members as part of its multi-million dollar bid campaign. (FIFA prosecutor Michael Garcia is expected to begin next week a worldwide investigation of nations involved in the bid process.)

More recently, revelations about the poor treatment of migrant workers from Nepal have led to charges that the Kafala employment system that ties migrant workers to employers amounts to slavery.

Hassan al-Thawadi, the young lawyer who ran the Qatari bid and heads its organizing committee, dismissed charges about how Qatar won the World Cup as conspiracy theories.

"I think what we're going to see is a picture of the grassy knoll in the JFK assassination and instead of it being smoke they're going to say it's the Qatari headdress and it's us," he told reporters on Thursday. "It proves the need for the Middle East to host a World Cup. It proves the need for us to actually be able to break down stereotypes."

Al-Thawadi also hit back at charges Qatar was turning a blind eye to labor abuses in a country that depends almost entirely on foreigners in a construction industry that has seen a boom in work on infrastructure to get the Gulf state ready for the 2022 World Cup. (Estimates are Qatar will spend $100 billion on infrastructure, not the mention the work on building stadiums.)

“It will always be our top priority,” Al-Thawadi said. “If the World Cup is doing anything, it is accelerating a number of these initiatives.”

About the only thing everyone within FIFA can agree on is that a 2022 World Cup cannot be held in June and July.

Qatar's bid called for plans to construct air-conditioned stadiums to hold the games -- and Al-Thawadi insists his country is ready to host a summer tournament -- but as American Chuck Blazer, the former executive committee member, famously said on the eve of the 2022 World Cup vote, "I don't see how you can air-condition an entire country."

It took three years for everyone else to come around to Blazer's position. Now, the fight is over when to hold the tournament.

Two periods have been proposed: November-December and January-February. FIFA president Sepp Blatter, along with the English Premier League, supports the former, while Michel Platini, the president of UEFA, which organizes the Champions League, is in favor of the latter.

Leagues and continental championships across the world would be disrupted by a winter World Cup. MLS, for one, would probably have to end six weeks earlier than it does now if a November-December World Cup was adopted.

Fox, which bought the TV rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup, is strongly opposed to a winter World Cup. Period. A November-December World Cup would fall in the middle of the heavy NFL season, while one scenario has a January-February World Cup ending with the final on the same day as the Super Bowl.

The Fox issue may be the toughest legal hurdle FIFA will have to jump in the ongoing mess that is the 2022 World Cup.

    commented on: October 4, 2013 at 8:38 a.m.
    Just play a match every day, will sort out the teams with depth-they win anyways......can then play in 2 week break before super bowl....
  1. Miguel Dedo
    commented on: October 4, 2013 at 9:25 a.m.
    It is encouraging to see that there is honor among thieves. All those bribes paid by Qatar, FIFA does not want to render them worthless. Of course, throwing out the 2022 assignment to Qatar and starting the selection process over again would allow FIFA national representatives to collect another round of bribes. That could be attractive.
  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: October 4, 2013 at 10:03 a.m.
    What is the difference between playing 6 months earlier or 6 months later than the original schedule? The only obstacle to the Jan - Feb schedule is the winter Olympics in 2022. Why not playing the world cup in Jan - Feb 2013 instead? And in regard to the Super Bowl, There is a two-weeks break before the super bowl. Fox can schedule the start of the WC after the end of the NFL semifinals and give a soccer break during the day of the super bowl. Every thing can be re-schedule, even the super bowl, for one year.
  1. Nancy Carr-swaim
    commented on: October 4, 2013 at 12:20 p.m.
    With all the controversy surrounding the Qatar bid and its scandalous bribes, why can't FIFA start all over again? Qatar did not win the bid fairly and is not prepared to host in the summer. Moving the world cup to the winter disrupts many other events. This is not a good break in tradition. START OVER FIFA, AND DO IT RIGHT!!
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: October 4, 2013 at 12:28 p.m.
    There is the small issue of the Olympics. By postponing this determination on the World Cup until 2014, Blatter risks freezing out bidders for the 2022 Winter Olympics and incurring the wrath of the IOC. And there is the other, bigger issue of money. Fox will drop this contract because they were counting on a month-long summer event with steady build-up to the final. They will not accept a WC Final squeezed in around NFL games. FIFA stands to lose several billion dollars in media contracts on a World Cup hobbled by ineptitude. The UN-ification of FIFA continues apace.
  1. Christopher Tallmadge
    commented on: October 4, 2013 at 7:19 p.m.
    Can they actually be stupid enough to play in Qatar? The bid process was for a summer event. The world's TV companies bought a summer event and I doubt that FOX is the only one who will take legal action. I expect that the TV money which is what bankrolls sports will talk and the World Cup will walk.
  1. Ken Jamieson
    commented on: October 5, 2013 at 11:05 a.m.
    The title of the article should be "Sepp Blatter won't admit mistake." This has more to do with the executive branch of FIFA not wanting to admit the process was flawed and that corruption is rampant in their organization. I also find it interesting that some have mentioned the IOC and the Winter Olympics. Discussing the IOC and FIFA, two of the most corrupt sporting organizations in the world, in the same breathe has a definite twinge of irony.
  1. gill agee
    commented on: October 5, 2013 at 4:42 p.m.
    Blatter displays the finest qualities of an honest politician. Once he's been bought, he stays bought.

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