FIFA, the organizing body that operates soccer on the world stage, determines its hosts for the World Cup years in advance, allowing the host country to build the stadiums and the infrastructure necessary to hold the world’s most important team competition.
That’s what we have already had a year to digest and discuss (disgust?) the decision to allow the Middle Eastern country of Qatar to host the 2022 tournament. And that is why we will have another seen more years to discuss the decisions before a ball is kicked in anger there.
But there is a lot of anger being kicked around because of the decision, which will forever go down as the stupidest thing an international sports organization has ever done, and there are a lot of really stupid decisions to compete for that title.
(Any quick research on the decisions of the world’s figure skating organization, the International Skating Union, will show that there is no dearth of stupid decisions made by world sports organizing groups.)
Holding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is stupid for several reasons, the most noteworthy being that in the summer, daily temperatures rise to 120 degrees. By early nightfall, the temperature can still range well above 100. Soccer players run for 45 minutes consecutively, and do so for another 45 minutes after a 15-minute break. Oppressive heat is not a good ingredient for competitive soccer.
Yes, the decision has been made by FIFA to host the 2022 games in the months of November and December, when it is slightly less warm in Qatar. The fact that such a decision destroys the schedules of every major soccer league in the world except Major League Soccer in the United States bothers everyone who cares about World Cup soccer except for those people who are in charge of World Cup soccer.
Qatar, which had no standing in the soccer world before buying the 2022 bid through bribery and corruption, also has one of the world’s worst records for human rights violations, something the FIFA organizing committee obviously did not consider when it made its decision.
But now those violations are threatening to hit FIFA where it lives, which is in the wallet.
This week both Visa and adidas, key sponsors of the World Cup and of FIFA, openly questioned any progress being made in Qatar toward fixing the human rights violations. Of most pressing concern is the way migrant construction workers are being treated as they rush to prepare the massive stadiums being built so that Qatar can host a tournament they have no business hosting.
Wouldn’t it be great if all of the companies contracted to support World Cup and FIFA threatened to pull their support out if something (hopefully moving the games to the United States, which has every conceivable need already covered) is not done to change the way Qatar treats the people who are creating the stadiums it plans on using for the Games and thereafter?
The answer to that question is “Yes, it would be great.”
You have to ask yourself whether corporate America, and the rest of the business world, cares enough about human rights issues to stand up to FIFA and declare its unwillingness to financially support a corrupt organization and its most corrupt decision ever. If this was a movie script, good would win out over evil, and the perceived evil empire of the corporate world would finally show a bit of heart, putting it one bit of heart above FIFA.
The problem is that Visa and Adidas are pussy-footing around the topic, issuing complaint press releases stating their disappointment but not DOING anything about it. There are no threats going along with the statements about human rights violations. There is only the proclamation of disappointment.
FIFA has faced that disappointment since the moment FIFA President Sepp Blatter opened the envelope showing the name of Qatar as the 2022 host. The organization unabashedly changed the dates of the games to maintain its status in the hot desert sun, rather than give back the bribe money and make a rational decision.
Coca-Cola also issued a statement regarding Qatar’s human rights environment, but it was far less dramatic than the ones sent out by Visa and Adidas. Unfortunately, Coca-Cola’s stance is more representative of how the corporate world is ultimately going to handle its World Cup sponsorship.
It looks like the 2022 World Cup will be played in Qatar in the months of November and December, FIFA will make tons of money on sponsorships, the sponsors will show stockholders how their aggressive ad campaigns paid off, and everyone will win.
Except for those guys actually playing the games, and the people who put up the buildings that host the games.