There are lots of ways moving the World Cup into the winter will be bad. You know about those. So Channel 4 News has found 10 reasons to be cheerful about a possible switch.
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar may be just shy of a decade away but it’s the hot topic among football fans as Fifa feels the heat over plans to move the tournament from summer to winter.
The switch is being considered because temperatures in the Gulf state can reach 50C – unsafe for players. The fact the desert can get quite warm hardly comes as a surprise which is why there is anger from nations which lost out in the bidding process (Australia, US, Japan and South Korea) and threats of legal action from some of the world’s most powerful football leagues.
So while the men in suits argue, we’ve come up with a few reasons why a winter tournament may actually be a good thing.
Keme Nzerem on Sport: How Qatar turned the World Cup into a political football
Better football. It is generally agreed that professional football players are at their peak of fitness in the run-up to Christmas so you’ll be getting the best of Rooney Jnr (remember, it’s still nine years away) and co instead of tired-looking end-of-season players dreaming of their hols and fighting between matches over whose turn it is on the crazy golf.
Safer for players. Fifa’s own inspection report has flagged up high temperatures as a “potential health risk”. There is already a moderate risk of heat injury to players between 24C and 29C – above that there begins to be “high and extreme” risk of injury. A game of three thirds? One leftfield idea has been to play matches in three chunks to give players a rest and an extra slice of orange.
Fewer construction workers will die. Unions warn that labour conditions in Qatar could result in thousands of deaths before a ball is even kicked, with organisers ramping up construction deadlines around new stadiums, roads and infrastructure projects. Dozens of Nepalese migrant labourers have already perished in the desert heat – at a rate of one a week according to an investigation by the Guardian. Many of these were young healthy men who suffered heart attacks. Pushing the tournament later, and into a cooler part of the year, could ease the pressure while human rights groups fight for better working conditions.
Better for the climate. The Qataris like their air-conditioning. Huge air-con systems in stadiums are planned and inevitably these would be turned up to the max to cope with the stifling heat of summer. So hosting it in November or December with highs of a mere 24 degrees celsius would be (slightly) better for the planet.
Better for the economy. A winter tournament may be good news for George Osborne as British workers who may have taken sickies to watch the football will be off anyway – stimulating the economy down the pub.
Football over the summer holidays. The fixture congestion predicted for the second half of 2022 means, according to some predictions, that the 2022-23 Premier League will have to kick off in mid-July. It being 10 years into the future, this means you’ll be able to watch a hologram version of Manchester United versus Liverpool while you fry on the beach in Marbella.
English teams could do better in 2023/2024. The complaint of Premier League managers and players is that the busy English season, lacking a winter break, means Premiership players are relatively more tired than their European counterparts come the “business end” of the season in the late spring and early summer. A winter World Cup could be a great equaliser, exhausting players in all the big leagues come spring 2023.
Cool conditions for the fans who travel to Qatar. We all know that the real fun of the World Cup is watching outside on big screens. And even the Qataris don’t air condition the streets. So in November/December members of the Barmy Army who make it to Qatar will be less sweaty and more comfortable as they follow the Three Lions en route to their penalty shoot-out defeat in the quarter finals. You could argue the chance of heat-induced post-match aggro is also reduced. The less extreme temperatures may also stop your face paint melting.
Christmas TV options dramatically improve*. Back in Britain, imagine tucking into the Baileys and Twiglets with a major sporting tournament on the box instead of the usual mix of repeats and tedious countdown shows? Begone repeats of Men Behaving Badly, Raymond Briggs and that East-17 song. *That’s if you actually enjoy watching football.
Going to the pub at Christmas just got more interesting. Because there’ll be wall-to-wall football on the screens which means less boring chats with those people from school you only see once a year. Meanwhile a winter World Cup is a good excuse to avoid travelling halfway across Britain to see the in-laws.