Opinion: World Cup and Black Friday carnage in 2022?

    Story highlights

    • A winter World Cup has some positives, argues football writer James Montague
    • It will bring huge TV audiences in Europe and open the game to the rest of the world
    • Questions still remain over conduct of bid vote

    James Montague is the author of Thirty One Nil: On the Road With Football's Outsiders (Bloomsbury). The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely his. Follow him @JamesPiotr.

    (CNN)It's December 23, 2022. It's the last Friday before Christmas and it's carnage on the streets of London.

    This is "Black Friday" and then some. Thanks to the huge numbers of office Christmas parties, paramedics, bouncers and doctors are struggling to scrape binge drinking Britons off the pavement.
      Tuesday saw a commission set up by FIFA, world soccer's governing body, recommend what was already the worst held secret in sport: that the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar should be moved from the oppressive heat in the summer to the cooler winter months. Some initial reports suggest that December 23 could be the day of the World Cup final.
      If the right-leaning British tabloid Daily Mail thought Black Friday 2014 was bad, it might find December 23, 2022 really will signal the end of days.
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      At least that's the impression you get from the reaction to a possible winter World Cup. Discounting the fact that "winter" is a relative term (there have already been six World Cup finals hosted during winter months in the southern hemisphere,) the reaction has been almost universally negative; a sign not just of Qatar's perceived ability to change the rules of the game, but also of FIFA's mendacity.

      December 2010

      Ever since Qatar was announced as host in December 2010, questions have been raised about its ability to host the finals in June and July when the temperature can reach 50 degrees Celsius. Other dates were mooted such as February/March 2022, but that drew a strong reaction from the International Olympic Committee as it clashed with the Winter Olympics.
      Broadcaster Fox, which had paid an inordinate sum to secure World Cup broadcast rights, must be angry with that possibility too, as it coincided with one of the biggest advertising paydays in world sport: the Super Bowl. And UEFA, Europe's governing body, was also against that date as it clashed with the Champions League, the richest competition in world football.
      May was suggested, when the temperatures were lower, but not low enough.
      So, the battle was set for November and December, a date that UEFA appears to have begrudgingly accepted as the best of a bad bunch. Most European leagues have a winter break that could be moved forward a month to accommodate the finals.
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      The main loser appears to be the English Premier League who will have to find a month long hole in its schedule, plus recovery time.
      Richard Scudamore, the league's CEO who has just signed a record £5.1 billion TV deal, is livid. He's a man that's not accustomed to being dictated to.
      "FIFA keep their international dates, they keep their World Cup intact, even UEFA, who, I think, let us down a little bit, clearly pushed," he said after the meeting.
      The 2022 dates means English football's traditional Christmas football period -- where a quick succession of matches would be played starting the day after Christmas Day -- would go out of the window.

      Huge draw

      But would a winter World Cup really be the disaster it is being painted as?
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      Surely, as the European nights draw in and in the run up to Christmas, a schedule of international matches on free to air television would be a huge draw to viewers in Europe? Given the public's affinity with football TV ratings records would be smashed.
      A World Cup in November and December might arguably also provide the impetus for English football to reform itself.
      The lack of a winter break has meant that the national team rarely performs well at big international tournaments after a long grueling season. Germany who won last World Cup, took a six week winter break December to January. Over that time, English Premier League teams played seven league matches, plus cup games. It would be an opportune time to introduce one.
      One other issue is the global aspect of the game. Insisting on June-July for every World Cup finals excludes much of the world from ever hosting the tournament, including the Middle East. A Qatar World Cup in December would be a unique experience for those who travel there, if a little cold.

      FIFA Vs the World

      In reality, this isn't an argument about the timing of the finals as much as represents deep anger at FIFA and by extension Qatar.
      And why exactly did the likes of UEFA president Michel Platini vote for a summer World Cup when the issue of temperature were well known, including in FIFA's own technical report which deemed a Qatari World Cup high risk?
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      And then there's an issue of migrant worker rights. Qatar has promised changes to the Kafala system and rightly so. No World Cup should ever be built by workers with such a tenuous grasp over their own destinies.
      But Qatar winning the bid to host the 2022 World Cup has, by accident and under pressure from the intense media glare that followed it, enhanced visibility of this exploitation, not diminished it. The World Cup has made reform of the system more likely, not less.
      Until Qatar won the bid in 2010, reporting on the issue was negligible. Previously the Kafala system would be routinely dismissed as a necessary step towards global development, like migrants arriving in the U.S. to build the American dream. That view is now not heard.
      Take Qatar out of the equation and you are left with one question: what would actually be wrong with a winter World Cup? We talk big about football being a global game, why not make it truly global? Worry less about the cash-rich English Premier League having to make alterations to their schedule, and worry more about the paramedics, bouncers and doctors on 23, December 2022. And brace yourself for the blackest of Black Fridays.