The initial victory of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid has drawn significant attention towards FIFA, football’s international governing body. The challenges of such a proposal, given Qatar’s climate during the summer months in which the World Cup would traditionally take place, have and might continue to prompt beneficial revisions in how FIFA operates, identifying those areas within the organisation where changes might result more effective government in the years to come.
As an alternative to a summer World Cup, FA chairman Greg Dyke recently revealed that FIFA president Sepp Blatter is considering, and expected to approve, retaining Qatar as the host nation and moving the tournament to the winter months. While the prospect of a winter World Cup continues to prompt debate, the mere fact that a summer World Cup has been sensibly ruled out indicates an increasingly pragmatic and logical approach from FIFA. Having previously appeared resolute in their pursuit of a summer World Cup in Qatar, the decision to adapt that plan to a winter World Cup does, regardless of its own challenges, represents an improvement in FIFA’s usual approach (seen in such cases as the late implementation of vanishing spray and, particularly, of goal-line video technology).
Possibly the most important step FIFA might take as a result of this debate is the identification of those who are demonstrably acting in their own interests rather than those of the sport itself, as it might potentially prompt a cleansing of the organisation of these elements, thereby making FIFA a more efficient and effective element of football administration in the future.
The World Cup in Qatar presents an opportunity to do just this. Its selection has been mired in numerous allegations of corruption and bribery, to the extent that the Garcia Report (a 350-page report on these allegations) was commissioned, and so it offers the chance to determine which of the delegates might be culpable in such activity, which thereby might as a result aid in the correction of these concerns and improve the efficiency of the organisation in the future.
FIFA has already had some success in rooting out some examples of these elements as a result of Qatar’s bid. Among these examples Jack Werner, Vice President of FIFA at the time of the bid, received $1.2 million from a Qatari company involved in the bid and as a result resigned, while Qatari representative Mohammed Bin Hamman was given a lifetime ban from football after an exposé showed him bribing other delegates both to select Qatar and elect him FIFA president. The attention drawn by the Qatar World Cup has, therefore, demonstrably resulted in attempts to purify the organisation, and so the recent revival in this attention might result in further steps being taken.
A similar potential repercussion of continued support for a winter World Cup is that it might result in a challenger in the upcoming election for FIFA president, which may provide the opportunity for proper discussion and debate within the organisation. Current president Sepp Blatter, aiming for a third term, is as of now running unopposed, and the emergence of a challenger, and thus a competitive election, might lead to greater consideration of pertinent talking points. Elections, by their very nature, prompt debate and analysis of matters of interest within the sport through the declarations of intent from each candidate, with each outlining what measures they might take to make improvements.
With the proposal of a winter-based tournament proving significantly divisive (due to the interruption of domestic leagues, the European Club Association has opposed the idea), the possibility of a representative from one of the more affected nations launching a bid for the presidency is made ever more likely, as is the debate and subsequent improvements this eventuality might produce.
While FIFA’s propositions regarding a Qatari World Cup have proved factious, the spotlight these developments have shone on the organisation have the potential to yield constructive changes in the way FIFA operates in the future.
What superior alternatives might there be to the currently proposed winter World Cup in Qatar?