FIFA confirms winter World Cup in Qatar; sets final for National Day

FIFA headquarters

MCaviglia/Wikimedia

FIFA headquarters

It’s official: Football’s governing body has decided to take the unprecedented step of moving the 2022 World Cup to the winter months to escape Qatar’s searing summer heat.

The tournament will now be played in November and December of 2022, ending with a final match on Qatar’s National Day, Dec. 18, FIFA confirmed today after its executive committee convened in Zurich.

The BBC quoted a FIFA spokesman as saying:

“Finally we know the end of the tournament. It’s a Sunday and, by the way, it’s the national day in Qatar, so it fits perfectly…You have enough time to do your Christmas shopping.”

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Doha Stadium Plus Qatar/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The announcement follows more than four years of speculation on the date for the tournament, which Qatar bid for on the basis of summer dates, but which has been long thought would be moved to cooler months.

A FIFA taskforce had already made a historic recommendation to move Qatar’s tournament from the games’ traditional June/July dates to November/December following a meeting last month.

However, at the time it stopped short of confirming specific dates for when the matches would take place.

In a statement today, FIFA spoke of a shortened timeline, but didn’t give an exact start date for the tournament yet:

“In principle, it was agreed that the tournament should be played over a reduced timeframe, for instance 28 days.

The working group for the international match calendar will meet in due course to finalise the international match calendar for the 2019-2022 cycle.”

Reaction

In Qatar, where residents are very familiar with the painful summer heat, many expressed approval of FIFA’s decision. On Twitter, some said:

But abroad, many football fans have opposed the shift in the tournament dates because it would require adjusting the schedule of several European leagues.

Those frustrations were once again aired on Thursday as the news started to leak out.

There was also earlier opposition from US broadcaster Fox, which paid a record amount to carry the 2018 and 2022 World Cup matches. It was concerned a winter World Cup would conflict with its coverage of National Football League (NFL) games in the US.

However, FIFA is believed to have at least partially placated the US network’s concerns by awarding it the rights to broadcast the 2026 without allowing any competing bids.

Keeping cool

Qatar was awarded summer 2022 tournament hosting rights even though bid evaluators flagged the country’s scorching summer heat as a hazard.

Qatar Foundation stadium

SCDL

Qatar Foundation stadium

To help fans and players cope, local organizers proposed the development of a high-tech air conditioning system that would keep those within the stadiums cool.

It put its cooling technology on display last summer, albeit on a much smaller scale, at a fan zone in Katara set up for spectators watching football matches broadcast from the World Cup in Brazil.

However, even if the stadiums and fan zones were kept at a comfortable temperatures, there were still questions about how much tourists would enjoy their time visiting Qatar outside the official matches.

Local organizers told reporters during a press conference last month that it planned to continue to develop the cooling technology, which could be used in other applications such as greenhouses.

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