Talk of a Cooler 2022 World Cup Heats Up

Qatar plans to build a total of 12 new stadiums for the FIFA World Cup 2022, this being one of them.

(from New York Times, September 10, 2013) Discussion over moving the soccer World Cup to a later month is proving to be a “polarizing debate” in the global soccer community, and the event is still nine years away. The two arguments are split over whether to keep the tournament during the summer months or to move to around November when it is cooler in Qatar, Saudi Arabia.

In 2010, Qatar won the bid for hosting the 2022 World Cup. The agreement included a plan for air-conditioned arenas and rest areas for spectators to take cover from the 120, or more, degree temperatures. The hot summer temperatures remain the main argument for moving the date of the tournament. FIFA officials point to medical studies to support their movement: playing a month-long tournament in the desert is a “risky idea.” On the other hand, November in Qatar is idea for physical activity.

Those opposed to moving the World Cup appeal to tradition and upholding contracts. Andriei Markovits, a political science professor at the University of Michigan, says that moving the tournament would interfere with league schedules all over the globe. He added the parallel that Major League Baseball doesn’t play in the Olympics because baseball will not interrupt their season, so why should soccer change when they have played in the summer for roughly 100 years? Leaders in multiple soccer leagues have voiced similar arguments. Richard Scudamore of England’s Premier League has said adamantly that he will “lobby hard to maintain the current soccer calendar.” In 2011 Fox and Telemundo agreed to pay $1 billion for broadcast rights in the United States for both the 2018 and 2022 tournaments. However, they assumed the tournaments would be played in the summer as they have been since the 1930s.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter is pushing for a vote at the next executive committee meeting. This fast turn-around has some soccer officials worried the options are not being properly considered. Christian Seifert, the chief executive of Germany’s Bundesliga, says that there is plenty of time to look at both sides of the argument.