We’ve all come up with daft long term plans. I’m fairly certain that when I was 18 years old for example, I assumed that in ten years time I would be a home owner in a major North American city. Daft, daft, daft.
Anyway, it appears FIFA is now seriously considering moving the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from the summer months to the winter. In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine how the world football governing body could have come to any other conclusion. Here for illustration’s sake are the average monthly temperatures in Doha, Qatar:
So, lovely low 20s in the winter, scorching forty degrees celsius plus temperatures in the summer (although it’s nice and arid). That by the way is not extreme high, but the average.
It’s not as if this is news: when the bid to host the World Cup was first awarded to Qatar, the heat was an immediate concern among fans and the media. There were reassurances that Qatar would be designing air conditioned stadia (easily transportable too, by the way) to combat the problem. And of course a respected stadium designer scrapped all that in November 2011. Then the world was reassured yet again this past December all would be well, and air conditioned, for a summer tournament. Now FIFA president Sepp Blatter has proposed the tournament be moved to the winter months and is pushing a vote on the matter in early October.
This would be the point of the article where you might assume I’m going to crap all over Qatar and FIFA, for shambolic preparations and a misleading bid campaign. But some things need to be said for the sake of balance.
First, better this is sorted out now than in 2018. While the Premier League has already voiced their displeasure at the possibility of a winter World Cup, pushing a month’s fixtures ahead will be a lot easier with a nine-year heads up. You’d think reorganizing a fixture with nearly a decade’s notice might be a slightly more daunting challenge than inventing an entirely new method of mass air conditioning. But that’s just me.
Second, if FIFA denies Qatar the opportunity to host a World Cup, they’re essentially making the tournament off limits to certain nations by order of geography. That may be unavoidable, but we don’t really have a definitive answer to that question yet and the viability of a winter tournament contains part of the answer.
Third, the world is getting warmer by the year, and climate change models predict it’s just going to get worse. If Qatar can develop affordable, green cooling technology for mass summer outdoor events, won’t that be a net benefit for both the safety of athletes and the enjoyment of summer sport?
All of that said, of tantamount importance in how this is dealt with is the safety of the visiting supporters and the players. If their safety cannot be ensured by a summer tournament, FIFA has no choice but to either reschedule the tournament, or failing that, move the tournament elsewhere. Finally, the climate debate should not detract from the main issue—Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, and their stance on human rights, particularly as it involves accommodating visiting fans.