FIFA needs to rethink Qatar 2022
By JESSE KIRSCH
College Contributor Network
Eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit: a temperature hot enough to force FIFA-mandated water breaks during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. So what will be the response to 100-plus degrees in Qatar? Harsh play conditions, corruption allegations, and migrant workers' deaths give the 2022 FIFA World Cup unwanted publicity and could be a death sentence for the tournament.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter says the tournament cannot be played during the traditional months of June and July due to the heat. As a result, all governing bodies of soccer will meet to discuss alternate dates. Blatter and FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke repeatedly claim that November 2022 is the only viable alternative.
Then consider the United States. Although soccer's popularity in the U.S. is modest, interest peaks during the World Cup every four years. As the seventh richest country in the world, according to Forbes.com, the U.S. consumer class demands a certain respect. It's important to recognize that although the U.S. does not have the most loyal fan base, it does have one of the wealthiest.
November television views in America are simple: Football, football, and a hint of basketball. When the World Cup rolls over into December, you can forget any hope of strong soccer viewership - the NFL, NCAA, NBA, and NHL will dominate the ratings. Without high price tags for television commercials, networks will lose revenues, and, in turn, FIFA will miss out on a hefty portion of its tournament profits.
Additionally, European leagues are unhappy with the suggested change to their calendars. This autumn, for example, the English Premier League plays throughout November with a maximum "vacation" of 12 days between games. All of this could threaten the popularity and profitability of the proposed Qatar tournament.
Another option is keep the same summer dates but change the venues since the safety of players and fans could also be at risk with extreme temperatures. Qatari officials plan on building air-conditioned stadiums but the recent complaints about unbearable June weather in Qatar have shed light on the dark side of construction.
The International Trade Union Confederation claims an average of 20 Indian migrant workers died in Qatar per month in 2013. The ITUC also stated that 400 Nepalese migrant workers have died in Qatar since the nation received the 2022 FIFA World Cup bid in 2010. Yet another horrifying statistic is the ITUC's claim from its March 2014 report that at least 4,000 more migrant workers will die before kick-off in 2022.
Humanitarian groups have already started to make this a global issue. Whereas in 2010 all of the buzz was about a first-time Middle Eastern tournament host, most of the attention has now moved to worker mistreatment. In fact, on Sept. 4, two British researchers for the Global Network for Rights and Development went missing after alleged police harassment.
With nearly a decade until the anticipated 2022 kickoff, even more bad news could surface. I would not be surprised if by the 2018 cup there are hashtags such as #StopFIFA2022 pressuring politicians to take action.
There could even be a boycott. The 1980 Olympic boycott stands as possibly the most notable sports boycott of all time. In response to the USSR's invasion of Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter announced Team USA's withdrawal from the upcoming Moscow games; many nations followed Carter. It's not unheard of and it's something Sepp Blatter needs to keep in mind.
I think the solution to this entire scandal is clear. FIFA should clear the air, find a new site for 2022 and put this in the past. Give Qatar another chance to make a bid, but make Qatar do it right.
Jesse Kirsch is a sophomore in the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. The New Jersey native studies Broadcast Journalism and International Studies with a focus in Diplomacy. He loves the Yankees, Knicks, and Jets (even when they play terribly). Follow him on Twitter: @JesseRKirsch