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FIFA tells Europe no apologies and no compensation for Qatar's winter World Cup

Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup in November and December. Photo: PA

In this part of the Middle East there is the unmistakable feeling that there are countries who believe the footballing world should revolve around them.

You won’t necessarily hear them named but it’s quite clear European football in general is seen to be made up of those who, because of their history and tradition, resent the World Cup being given to Qatar.

Nasser Al Khater, a senior member of Qatar’s organising committee, calls it ‘bias’. He feels the obsession with corruption allegations, unproven despite various investigations, is evidence of that. He also found the recent bargaining about the timing of 2022 frustrating because it gives the impression that controversy follows Qatar at every turn.

But that of course was Fifa’s call and Qatar had the luxury of saying it was ready to host the tournament in the summer, knowing that the world’s governing body would probably not allow that to happen.

Qatar have denied claims of corruption. Credit: PA

There are many who believe, and perhaps the most vocal is England’s Premier League, that Qatar bid to stage a summer tournament, so should do just that. Of course it is not acceptable that Fifa ripped up the rule book, especially as those countries defeated by Qatar spent millions on winning a World Cup in the summer not an event at a time of year that suited their climate. But this is the Fifa way and always has been. Its ‘rules’ are a framework and nothing more.

It was instructive to watch the Fifa General Secretary Jerome Valcke’s bullish performance today in the first press conference after the 2022 dates had finally be set in stone. There is no hiding the shift has torpedoed many leagues' traditional calendar, so would Valcke show contrition? Would there be an apology to the clubs and leagues for the impending chaos?

Quite the opposite, in fact. Valcke was straight on the front foot. “Why should we apologise?” is about as clear as Fifa’s position gets. And on the question of compensation for clubs whose seasons will be badly disrupted, categorically: “There will be no compensation.”

Valcke says Fifa will not dish out compensation to leagues and clubs. Credit: Reuters

In fact he actually appeared affronted: ”What huge concessions are they making?” was his first response to my inquiry. As if he didn’t know.

I suspect his unshakable stance today was aimed as much at the leagues themselves as anyone else; laying down an early marker before they meet to decide their next move. There’s no doubt the leagues will still try to fight a winter World Cup but you can’t help think of King Canute when contemplating their chances of success.

But step back a bit, and English football has a bad reputation when it comes to considering the wider perspective, just how damaging will a World Cup leading up to Christmas prove?

So what if the Premier League and others take an enforced break? Does it really matter that the league programme will be split by seven or eight weeks? What is the real impact on clubs, players, broadcasters and fans?

Hassan Al Thawadi is heading up Qatar 2022. Credit: Reuters

You never know, for one year, football supporters might just enjoy the change. Although fans are always the last consideration when powerful men sit around mahogany tables in expensive hotels making decisions on their behalf.

The man heading up Qatar 2022, Hassan Al Thawadi, said today he believes this world cup brings a unique opportunity in a world that’s becoming more polarised by the day, “I believe this World Cup can open doors and open minds,” he said.

He may be overstating football’s powers but you should not underestimate this tiny but super rich country. Qatar’s growing influence in global business, in geo-politics and in sport is now undeniable.

To paraphrase Jerome Valcke: “It’s happening, now stop your moaning and get on with it.”

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