Call it what you like but farcical may be the correct way to describe FIFA’s handling on the 2022 World Cup. Surprisingly handed to the tiny Arabian peninsula of Qatar ahead of Australia, controversy has surrounded the decision since it was announced. Questions about the bidding process roll on with many suspecting that votes had been purchased in advance, a practice that FIFA venomously denies. Other more pressing issues such as whether it’s ethically correct to allow a nation with such a poor human rights record to host football’s biggest tournament still continues as well as questions about the lack of infrastructure (with entire cities needing to be built) and more importantly the treatment of workers in the region given recent reports of over 1,000 migrant deaths already since the FIFA handed Qatar the tournament.
These problems continue to go unanswered with FIFA only apparently focusing on one issue – when to play the tournament. The World Cup traditionally has been held in the summer months but with temperatures reaching the high 40’s in Qatar during that time, playing a month long tournament in these conditions is nearly impossible. The Qatar bid team has acted quickly to alleviate concerns by highlighting that all the stadiums will be centrally cooled making it easier for the players but the concerns are more around the safety of the fans before and after the match with Qatar unable to cool an entire country. One recommendation posed to FIFA was to switch the games to the much cooler months of December and January but this plan has faced much opposition from both clubs and advertisers who are unwilling to rework their schedules to suit FIFA’s pinnacle extravaganza. As the debate rages on, FIFA have now decided to enter into an eight month consultation phase to review potential dates for the tournament with a formal decision expected next summer. This move has been done to quell the discussion and further delay what many see as an evitable step of removing the event from Qatar and reopening the bid process. Whilst time is still on their side, FIFA president Sepp Blatter is reluctant to do so and in fact appears to be trying to run down the clock.
The fact that they are “ignoring” the other concerns suggests that FIFA has no intention of stripping Qatar of the World Cup and is set to press ahead regardless of safety or ethical concerns. The reason for this is unknown but we can speculate that a darker story exists behind closed doors at FIFA. If in fact FIFA members are guilty of taking bribes for their votes then having this information leaked out to the press or authorities could spell disaster for the organization. By pulling the tournament away from Qatar, the group behind the bid would have little to lose in coming out with the truth so keeping them silent could be a key reason why FIFA is turning a blind eye to the other issues that exist. FIFA it seems needs the tournament to take place as planned in Qatar regardless of the consequences it may have.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter is mandated to continue to build the FIFA brand and promote football on a global scale which he says is a core reason behind bring the World Cup to the Arabic nations but he is also mandated to build an accessible tournament for the fans, something which appears to have been placed on the back burner in recent months. During the initial bid process, the security and health concerns were raised but again ignored by FIFA even though the inspection committee did flag them as major risks. Whilst the players may be able to play in Qatar, it will ultimately be the fans that will suffer in the extreme heat and humidity regardless of when the tournament will be played. FIFA’s brazen attitude towards their safety showcases how farcical the situation has become and strengthens the argument about hidden reasons behind why FIFA is so insistent that the Qatar World Cup shall go ahead. FIFA will eventually have to address these other concerns if it is to hold the World Cup in Qatar after all as it can ill afford to have blood on its hands if a fan dies during the event as a result of these extreme conditions.