Since FIFA has confirmed that the 2022 World Cup will be held in the winter with the final scheduled for December 18th, many questions have been raised about what will this mean for the soccer world.
When Qatar initially launched the bid to host the 2022 World Cup in 2009, there were already a lot of concerned evaluation reports about the temperature conditions and safety conditions for both players and laborers. Even with these reports, FIFA chose Qatar to host the World Cup in December 2010. Since this decision, allegations about bribery and concerns about human rights abuse has defined this specific World Cup. With allegations mounting against the organization, FIFA hired an outside attorney, Michael J. Garcia, to investigate the ethics involved in the selection process. Garcia submitted a 350 page long report that was never made public. It seems that FIFA has issued a summary that was instead “erroneous and incomplete.”
While an independent committee or investigator can not spur reform, perhaps money will be a better motivator. Moving the World Cup to the winter will be costly and may pave the way for changes in future revenue streams that may make FIFA reevaluate the next selection process.
For instance, FIFA had accepted bids for American broadcasting rights to the 2022 World Cup from Fox in 2011. However, Fox made its bid for the summer time, as the winter time would cut into its deal with the very lucrative NFL broadcasts. To make up for this, FIFA has allowed uncontested bids from Fox for the rights to the 2026 World Cup, which means that prices for the tournament are far lower than if there was an open bidding process with rival networks such as NBC or ESPN. Given that FIFA’s budget relies heavily on television broadcasts (43% of their revenue comes from television rights), this discounted fee may set a lower benchmark for future World Cup television rights bids in the US, which would cost FIFA millions of dollars in future revenue.
Additionally, one can not overlook the disruption the winter World Cup will cause for the European domestic club football schedule. National leagues, such as the EPL, La Liga and Bundesliga will have to redo their entire 2022-2023 season schedules. This may mean fewer broadcasted games in the FA Cup or the Capital One Cup, which would lead to costly renegotiations with television broadcasting companies. The head of the European Club Association, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, has stated, “The European clubs and leagues cannot be expected to bear the costs for such rescheduling. We expect the clubs to be compensated for the damage that a final decision would cause.”
Lastly, FIFA also pays clubs to release their players for the World Cup. Given the unprecedented change in the 2022 World Cup, FIFA has already announced that it will agree to a $209 million compensation deal each for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. This deal is substantially larger than the one constructed for the 2014 World Cup, which only cost FIFA $70 million. As with the deals with Fox network, this agreement can set a benchmark that will be very hard to change, which would cost FIFA millions in compensation deals for the future.
Money is always a strong motivator when it comes to profiting organizations. With the potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars due to the Qatar World Cup, perhaps FIFA will think more strongly about actually reforming its culture.