Thursday, 3 October 2013

FIFA's folly?: What's riding on the Qatar question ...

As events go, committee meetings usually engender the same level of excitement as that felt by Willy Wonka on hearing his dentist appointment has been brought forward.
“A committee is a thing which takes a week to do what one good man can do in an hour,” was the assessment of American writer Elbert Hubbard. And if the judgement of Mr Hubbard is to be valued nearly one hundred years after his unfortunate death at the hands of a German U-Boat then it’s probably fair to assume such a gathering of bureaucrats won’t make for a great spectator occasion either.
However, even if you’re a sport hack more used to the drama-drenched fare of World Cup football, the deliberations of soccer’s biggest suits at the 28th executive committee (ExCo) on Thursday and Friday just might be different.
That’s because agenda point 25.2 will see a discussion on the future of the controversial 2022 World Cup in Qatar, an important bone of contention for a number of reasons:
1) FIFA’s credibility is on the line …
Ok, so maybe it’s a little like closing the gate after the horse has bolted on this one, but as the governing body for the planet’s most popular game, a sport that has a unique ability to enthral, unite and inspire people around the globe, is it too much to ask that those in power govern its future responsibly? FIFA’s recent effort to end racism in the game was admirable and in stark contrast to the farcical situation of recent years in which FIFA ExCo member Mohamed bin Hammam was banned for life, while fellow executives Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii were fined and suspended, on the grounds of corruption and bribery. Their involvement in the voting systems that delivered Sepp Blatter’s fourth presidency and Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup stained the results in many people’s eyes. The decision to award the 2022 tournament to Qatar - a desert nation whose July temperatures often reach 50 degress Celsius (122 degress Fahrenheit) and a location that even the chairman of FIFA’s medical committee (another one!) Michel D’Hooghe advised might not be the most hospitable climate for thousands of football fans to mill around in – has prompted a barrage of criticism. Much of that criticism has come from the top European leagues, unhappy over the gathering momentum to stage the 2022 World Cup in the winter rather the summer. It is now FIFA’s task to show leadership and find a solution that will placate the dissenters. If discussions in Switzerland lead to the 2022 World Cup being switched to the winter – or even moved elsewhere - given the billions of dollars (the New York Times valued the Qatar bid at $50bn) that has been spent on the bid process, where does that leave FIFA’s already shaky credibility?

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