Today, FIFA finalized and confirmed the dates of the next World Cup in 2022, and if you were already expecting it to be bad news, whoo buddy it’s probably even worse than you imagined. The competition, which will be held in Qatar, will begin on November 21, 2022 and conclude by December 18, making it the shortest World Cup since 1978, when the competition had only 16 teams, half of what it has now.
The dates, specifically the extremely controversial decision to move the competition from the summer to the winter months, were finalized despite strenuous objection by the major European football leagues, including the Premier League, who argued that it would disrupt what is already a frightfully busy club season. In fact, draft schedules for that year have been circulated to football clubs, according to football.london, and the current schedule has the Premier League starting up again just nine days after the final in order to maintain the traditional Boxing Day match fixtures. The Premier League will “adjust” by starting the season a week early, and ending a week late.
I can’t tell you how unfathomably dumb this whole thing is. The decision to award Qatar the World Cup was proven to be motivated by corruption, and indeed was a factor in the major corruption scandals that have played out over the past number of years. The list of Qatar’s problematic World Cup preparations is already well documented and I won’t fully recount it here (human rights abuses in the construction of the stadiums being the biggest of a lengthy list of concerns). However, after many expressed concerns about holding a major football tournament in outdoor arenas in the Middle East during the summer, instead of revisiting the bid process FIFA decided to double down and just move the tournament to November in the middle of the European club season.
So now, international footballers will leave their club teams during one of the busiest periods of the calendar, will go play a 32-team group stage/knock-out tournament compressed into 28 days, and return to their clubs with minimal rest. It also means that international teams that have qualified for the tournament will have significantly less time to prepare for the World Cup, which could have a negative effect on the overall quality of the competition.
And if you’ve done the math and figured out that the Premier League’s plan to start a week early and end a week late doesn’t match up with a 28-day international tournament, you’re correct. It means, basically, that the fixtures — league, Cup, Champions League, etc. — that would normally take place during the World Cup will now be smooshed into the rest of the season. That means more weeks with multiple matches, a shortened summer, a compressed transfer window, and absolutely knackered players.
It’s incredibly disruptive and asinine, will result in exhausted players by the end of the club season, and it makes no godd—n sense. But that’s FIFA for you.