FIFA proposes late changes to Qatar World Cup schedule

Qatar had 12 years planned for the World Cup. Now, with the first games of the tournament 100 days away and a tough fixture schedule announced months in advance, organizers have called for changes that will see the event kick off a day earlier to give the host nation a prominent spot in the opening game.

In recent years, the host country of the World Cup has appeared in the first match of the tournament as the striker in the elaborate opening ceremony of the month-long event. But this year, in a bid to break with that tradition, the organizers took the unusual step of rescheduling Qatar’s first game as the third out of the fourth match on November 21, the first day of the packed competition.

Now a proposal to move the Qatar game to November 20 has been sent to FIFA, soccer’s global governing body and World Cup organizer. Those officials, a group that includes the leaders of soccer’s six global confederations and FIFA president Gianni Infantino, will decide whether to approve it.

It is unclear why the organizers – and FIFA – initially did not intend to include Qatar in the opening game of the tournament, a stage reserved for every tournament host since the World Cup was held in Germany in 2006. Prior to that, the reigning champion was usually awarded. The honor of opening the tournament.

“It has been a long-standing tradition to mark the start of the FIFA World Cup with an opening ceremony for the first match featuring the hosts or the defending champions. and from a commercial point of view,” FIFA wrote in a letter to the bureau’s members, reviewed by The New York Times.

In addition to changing the date of Qatar’s opening match against Ecuador, the proposed adjustment would affect the other opening day match of the tournament: Senegal’s game against the Netherlands, which would be moved from the afternoon time slot to the evening window.

Planning for the World Cup in Qatar was difficult. The awarding of hosting rights to Qatar ultimately required FIFA to move the event to the Northern Hemisphere winter, as high summer temperatures in the Gulf posed a potential threat to players, officials and the hundreds of thousands of fans expected at the tournament.

The switch has upended the football calendar, causing an unprecedented mid-season disruption to the Europa League season and other competitions around the world. Negotiations with clubs – frustrated by weeks of disruption to their league schedules and TV contracts – have resulted in the tournament being played over fewer days (28) than any other event since it expanded to 32 teams in 1998.

“As the tournament approaches, the FIFA administration is fully aware of the various sporting, operational, commercial and legal implications of this uniquely compressed schedule,” FIFA wrote in the letter.

It is not known when the final decision on the request will be made.

The sudden move to change the opening date only added to concerns about Qatar’s readiness to host the World Cup. Already fans are complaining about the lack of accommodation and the prevalence of alcohol consumption during the tournament.

If the rescheduling of the opening match is approved, overseas ticket holders who were planning to attend will face the potential challenge of changing their travel plans and booking hotel rooms, and any player competing in European leagues – Ecuador sometimes has more than a dozen. – He would have one less day to travel and prepare.

World Cup organizers said they had consulted with Qatar and the football associations of the two affected teams before proposing the changes. His letter states that no national team objected to the change.

FIFA’s administration has assessed the commercial and legal implications of the proposal – including the impact on contractual obligations on media rights, sponsorship, tickets and hospitality – as well as the impact on traveling fans, and has determined that any risks are sufficiently outweighed. with the value and merits of the proposals,” said FIFA’s letter.

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