Gary Wright on why it’s time to think the unthinkable
World Cup 2022 will NOT be held during the summer in Qatar. If it does take place there, it will certainly be moved to the winter… however, it looks increasingly likely the tournament could be in a different country.
Sepp Blatter, the 77-year-old president of the world governing football body FIFA, has wriggled and squirmed his way through almost three years of criticism following the award.
Six months ago FIFA – scared of the legal ramifications – insisted the tournament would move to winter only if Qatar asked. But that’s changed, FIFA now says it must move.
Australia will be angered as it has previously been told a winter World Cup is impossible. I doubt that is keeping FIFA up at night though, the Aussies are not really that big on football and they’re too far away for most people to care.
The real danger is the likely rush of legal challenges from the European championships and leagues whose domestic season will be in tatters. FIFA will be in court for years.
Qatar has been planning for the World Cup, which will transform the nation in so many other ways since, December 2010.
Now though it is time to begin planning for the unthinkable: losing the World Cup 2022.
I suspect there are many in Qatar who wish they had never started the audacious bid, which has achieved its primary aim of putting the country on the international stage (Qatar Foundation sponsorship on Barcelona shirts and the ownership of Paris Saint-Germain are impressive stakes in world football anyway).
The country's wealth means all the construction work will go ahead regardless. The World Cup was a big deadline and deadlines focus minds. They ensure things get done on time (remember Sheikh Mohammad’s 09.09.09 opening for the Dubai Metro?).
Losing the World Cup means Qatar can also spread demand for building materials, which are set to soar in price as demand outstrips supply. Oh yes, it can save $4bn on stadia too.
In five years Qatar has gained enormous influence in the world. From the direction of post-Arab Spring policy across the region to loans for cash-strapped Greece and Italy as well as investment in north American oil exploration.
“Qatar has money to spend and the political will to use it as an extension of its foreign policy,” according to Theodore Karasik, a political affairs analyst at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. “That’s a powerful combination.”
The World Cup bid is a tiny part of Qatar’s expansion onto the global stage. Its award gave the country a focus for massive development.
In three short years the need for that deadline has diminished and if World Cup 2022 does move elsewhere, no one in Qatar should worry. Blatter and his cronies will rightly be left with egg on their faces too.
Rest assured, the construction industry will continue to thrive in Qatar, with or without the World Cup, and the country will continue its unhindered march to world influence.