The utterly preposterous story of the allocation of the Football World Cup to homophobic Qatar is a parable for our times. That money, and only money, counts in sport – and in particular in the allocation of tournaments to country or cities.
I suspect that I may be unusual in actually having been to an international football tournament in Doha. Back in around 1999 I think when I went to the Gulf Cup and even presented a trophy (don’t ask!). I was doing my job but then, as now, football was no big deal in most Arab countries. You could only play in the winter because of the extreme temperatures between April and September. So obviously the country could not host a tournament that had always been played in the European summer. Obviously.
Not obviously at all. Insanely, corruptly and disgracefully FIFA awarded the Qataris the 2022 World Cup. Don’t worry, they said, we will air-condition the stadiums. Baloney of course. FIFA, instead of saying “We goofed” negotiated an outcome involving shifting the tournament to later in the year and thereby totally disrupting domestic fixtures across Europe for weeks. Money counts.
The construction of stadiums in Qatar has been rushed and deadly with dozens of workers dying because of inadequate HSE. And all for what? A PR exercise for a hydrocarbon rich state with more money than sense or decency. And the governing body of the world’s most popular sports was complicit in this unseemly farrago.