World Cup 2022: All bets are off

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World Cup 2022: All bets are off

Ordinarily, betting on the FIFA World Cup specifically centres on who will win and who will finish the tournament as the competition’s leading scorer. It does not usually focus on whether or not the event will actually take place. But that is the sorry scenario that is currently playing out regarding the scheduled 2022 tournament in Qatar.

There has been considerable disquiet ever since the oil rich, desert Gulf State was awarded the right to stage the 2022 final in December 2010. The key issue, and it is not one that should come as a surprise, is that it gets hot in Qatar in the summer - very hot. Average high temperatures are in excess of 100 degrees (40ºC) and frequently rise as high as 117 degrees. That is too hot to play football in.

Ever since the award was made, the question of how the world’s best footballers - and their fans - could safely negotiate those temperatures has been hanging in the air. Things have now come to a head, with world governing body FIFA accepting the non-viability of a summer tournament and instead proposing the tournament takes place in November.

Inevitably, there are objections to such a move. There are objections from traditionalists, objections from the countries who were outbid by Qatar - the bid was won on the basis of a summer tournament – but, most damagingly, of all there are objections from the major European clubs.

November is ordinarily earmarked as part of the domestic football season. The idea of running a World Cup alongside domestic football is simply not something the major clubs are prepared to countenance. They see reduced revenues as fans, advertisers and broadcasters turn their attentions elsewhere in addition to the likely impact of their most attractive, influential and expensive stars being made unavailable. Sports betting routinely involves a degree of uncertainty, but FIFA is currently taking that equation to a whole new level.

As things stand, FIFA is insisting that no decision has so far been ratified by its executive committee and there is still, in principle at least, some room for negotiation before the committee meets in Zurich on 19 and 20 March. The run up to that meeting promises to be fraught to say the least. Meanwhile, FIFA’s reputation is suffering potentially irreparable damage.

Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the English Premier League, which is one of 50 leagues facing massive disruption, has made it clear that the matter is far from settled.

"Clearly there is still time within the process to consider our position further, but first we will consult with our clubs, other stakeholders in English football and other leagues before deciding on what, if any, further action might be appropriate or worthwhile," said Scudamore.

In other words, there is a storm brewing. The odds are that things will get a lot more heated before the question of precisely when - or indeed if - the 2022 World Cup finals will go ahead.

by  khalid Albaih 

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