Blatter’s cronies must end farce and reopen bidding for 2022 World Cup

The Rio Report

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Back in 2009 when the United Arab Emirates was about to host the FIFA Club World Cup, the Rio Report came across Chuck Blazer (the guy in the beard above) in the heart of the long, hot and unforgiving summer in Abu Dhabi, the traditional capital of the Emirates.

Blazer was then General Secretary of CONCACAF, the governing body of football in North and Central America and the Caribbean. More pertinently, the native New Yorker was a member of a FIFA executive committee who would somehow vote just over a later later to award the 2022 World Cup finals to oil-rich Qatar.

When the news emerged from Zurich in December 2010 that FIFA's executive committee had opted to stage the tournament in Qatar ahead of the United States, South Korea, Japan and Australia, the image of Chuck making his way into the Zayed Sport City stadium during a sweltering August in Abu Dhabi immediately stirred the Rio Report's senses.

It remembers thinking that Blazer was similar to Santa Claus visiting the desert. In the cold light of day, the decision to opt for Qatar was one that left most commentators cold. Especially when one recalls Blazer, quite naturally it must be said, toiling to cope with the boiling conditions of summer life in the Persian gulf.

How could FIFA possibly award a World Cup finals to a scorched part of the world where temperatures of 50 degrees (Celsius) regularly adorn the desert landscape?

The answer is they won't. They have moved the goalposts, if comments from FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke are to be accepted as the truth.

"The dates of the World Cup will not be in June or July. I think it will be played between November 15 and January 15 at the latest," Valcke is quoted as saying. "If you play between November 15 and, let's say, the end of December, it's the time when the weather is the most favourable. You play with a temperature equivalent to that of a rather hot spring in Europe, you play with a temperature of 25 degrees (Celsius), which is perfect to play football."

Not that such news is surprising. It has been coming since that fateful vote handed the tournament to Qatar.

FIFA have already informed Australia that there will be no chance of a re-vote despite the accepted wisdom among all bidders that they were voting for a summer event and not the winter one it threatens to become. There will also be no prospect of the £25 million compensation package Football Federation Australia are seeking for bidding under what turned out to be false grounds.

"My fear is that FIFA could make a bad situation worse by hastily changing one of the most significant and controversial decisions it's ever taken," said Frank Lowy, chairman of FFA.

"Australia, like the other bidding nations, was required by FIFA's own rules to pitch for a World Cup in the June and July window.

"Changing the dates is tantamount to changing the rules after the contest is over. If that happens, compensation should be paid to those nations that invested many millions, and national prestige, in bidding for a summer event."

Much like FIFA's handling of the vote to carry the finals to Qatar, Chuck Blazer has been caught up in claims and counter claims of fraudulent behaviour that led to a 90-day ban from football in May 2013 pending a full enquiry.

He seemed like an amiable chap, a good conversationalist with a voracious appetite for football, but the first thing that one noticed about him is size.

The second is his beard, that looks like it has crept up on him unnoticed over the years. He had been parachuted into the piercing elements of this summer in conditions that would leave a bison lashing with sweat.

The Rio Report was certain Chuck would come to his senses after his personal sampling of the desert summer and convince his colleagues on the FIFA executive committee that carrying the World Cup to Qatar would be an act of folly.

One akin to the time Zinedine Zidane decided to stick the head on Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final.

There was a bronze statue of that moment erected on the Corniche in Doha, Qatar, but that is the closest the small Emirate, a country of only 1.7 million people, should be allowed to fraternise with a World Cup final.

What legacy will holding the World Cup in Qatar leave that part of the globe?

It remains one of life's great mysteries why Blazer and his colleagues decided to award world sport's most celebrated event to Qatar. Trying to find a credible answer becomes murkier by the day.

Medieval attitudes towards migrant workers, homosexuality, women and alcohol consumption are concerning, but the biggest problem regarding Qatar was always the temperature.

Why was the warning by FIFA's own inspectors about Qatar's summer bizarrely ignored by the executive committee? No other country would have been offered such preferential treatment. Petrodollars ultimately won the day and the vote, or certainly appear to have swayed FIFA, but moving the tournament to November only opens up another can of worms.

How Europe's major football league and continental competitions can be revolved to accommodate a World Cup in the winter is as farcical as it sounds.

Suddenly the idea of the Champions League in the summer is fashionable because 22 men representing FIFA got it so wrong in a closed room in Switzerland three years ago.

If there is any sense of fair play governing FIFA's decision to move the 2022 World Cup finals from the summer to the winter months, the bidding process should be reopened.

Amid the claims and counter claims that seem to emerge on a weekly basis, this is the only option available to FIFA if Blatter and Co want to adhere to their own sense of what constitutes natural justice.

This is the right and morally correct action rather than moving the goalposts midway through the game.

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