FIFA has announced today that it is moving forward with plans to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar to the winter season of that year.
The tournament will be played in November and December, with the timeframe reduced by several days – possibly from 31 days to 28 days. A start date has not been established, but FIFA officials have confirmed that the championship final will be held on December 18, which coincides with Qatar’s National Day.
Local organizers in Qatar had originally planned on hosting their event in July and August, but ever since the country won the 2002 bid there has been growing international concerns over its summer heat, which is known to frequently exceed 50°C.
A report commissioned last year by FIFA’s Executive Committee also confirmed that the health and safety of players and fans both inside and outside the stadium is at risk.
Hosting a World Cup in Qatar was originally contemplated as feasible given that proponents of the bid promised to build outdoor air conditioned stadiums. However, organizers later conceded that such structures are not possible due to cost reasons.
There has also been backlash from European leagues and FIFA World Cup television rights holders. The new winter World Cup timeline conflicts with the schedules of European football leagues and runs in the middle of the NFL season.
Fox Broadcasting Company owns the U.S. television rights for the 2022 World Cup and it will now have to broadcast the tournament during the American football season.
In addition to the major shift to winter, FIFA’s decision to cut the tournament short by a few days is an attempt to curtail the effects of going into the holiday season. There were proposals to schedule the championship final two days before Christmas, but that received significant negative feedback from football fans.
Furthermore, another proposal of hosting the 2022 World Cup in January or February 2023 became a major concern for the International Olympic Committee as it would overlap with the Winter Olympics in February.
The last time a major scheduling change was made to a global sporting event was for the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics. Organizers moved the Games away from the wet rainy months in July and August (Australia’s winter) to mid-September (Australia’s spring), which is typically Sydney’s driest season.
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar has been mired with controversy to the extent that there have been calls to relocate the tournament to another country. The host nation has faced allegations of bribery during the bid phase as well as mounting reports of migrant worker exploitation, with poor working conditions resulting in the deaths of over a thousand people.
It is estimated that Qatar will spend at least $220 billion on building the facilities, infrastructure and even the new cities needed for the tournament.