The Football Lawyer: What would the true cost of moving the 2022 World Cup to winter be?
It’s still nine years until Qatar is due to host the Fifa World Cup, yet they might already be feeling the first painful beginnings of a financial migraine. Given the country’s brutally hot summer months, the case is being made with increasing force for a rescheduling of the tournament until winter. If this were to happen, it would represent a legal, logistical and commercial headache, the likes of which would be almost unprecedented.
Let’s look at the planning and construction issues first. Nine years sounds like a long time, but it’s not all that much when major changes, such as those proposed to Qatar’s infrastructure, are underway. Many of the relevant contracts will already have been awarded, and several of their terms may have to be redrawn.
The same is true of the sponsors. There may be particular lifestyle brands whose products are better advertised during the summer months, who would stand to lose a great deal if the World Cup were shifted to a cooler part of the year. They may have a claim for their “legitimate expectations” – that is to say, for the profits that they would have made had the tournament been held in summer as first proposed. What’s more, these projected profits are, in many cases, readily quantifiable.
And that may not be all. The schedules of major sporting tournaments are often planned in full two or three years in advance, and there will be other events – the African Nations Cup, the Uefa Champions League, the Olympics – who will have their timelines agreed so that there is as little clash as possible between their promotional campaigns and those of the World Cup. Whether any of these other events have a compensation claim against Fifa – a cost which they would then presumably pass on to Qatar – would depend on the “remoteness” test. That is to say, whether they can link any losses directly to the World Cup being moved to winter. If Fifa is to change the World Cup’s diary dates, then they had better do so pretty quickly.
Of course, it’s not that simple. At the moment, Qatar have a choice of two worryingly large sets of expenses. The first, as outlined above, is the cost of a winter World Cup. The second, of course, is the cost of holding it in the summer as originally planned. The problem here is that the playing conditions could be almost unbearable for footballers if the necessary air conditioning – which will cost unprecedented sums – is not installed. The insurance premiums that will be charged by the clubs and national football associations will reach eye-watering levels, to say nothing of the money that will be spent to ensure the health and safety of spectators.
All in all, it’s an extraordinarily complex web of problems, and it’s difficult to see which way Qatar will turn. If they decide to shift the whole show to, say, December, then they could face compensation payouts that would run into billions of pounds: and, even for a nation with the world’s highest GDP per capita, that’s still a weighty tab to pick up. Who knows: given that the evening temperatures in Qatar are relatively mild, it might be that the teams end up playing their games, and ultimately the World Cup final itself, in the dead of night. Given the unusual narrative that this tournament has taken, it might be that this unorthodox conclusion might just be the most fitting.Tagged in: FIFA, Qatar 2022, Uefa, world cup
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