And the award goes to…
FIFA! Yes The Federation of International Football Association!!!
Last week the FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced that the 2022 World Cup tournament in Qatar will most likely be held in October/November of that year. If this plan succeeds, it would be the first World Cup tournament to be held in the winter months ever as opposed to the traditional summer months of June and July.
This audacity to break from tradition, from the way we’ve always done things around here, is, one of the reasons why we at Facilitate4me has decided to name FIFA the February 2015 Change Practitioner of the month.
To fully understand this however, one needs to understand the full scale of the backlash and opposition that has engulfed FIFA since their decision in 2010 to award Qatar the right to host the 2022 world cup. The main reasons for the opposition are classified into:
- Bribery & Corruption allegations
- Lack of a football presence in Qatari society
- Qatar summertime heat.
Bribery & Corruption allegations
The wide definition of a “bribe” is anything given to persuade or influence a person to act in a particular way. This means that virtually any act can be loosely interpreted as a bribe if the intention is to get a favourable or a particular reaction. Such acts will include the obvious money in brown envelopes to expensive diners, prestigious sports tickets, free drinks, complimentary gifts, and introductions to prominent and influential members of society. The act of giving a bribe is not the issue here – we all do it. The sore point arises in our definitions and interpretation of “bribe”…and also when we perceive that someone else’s “bribe” has been more effective than ours.
Lack of a football presence in Qatari society
Though football is the most popular sport in Qatar, their men’s team is ranked a lowly number 109 in the world, behind the likes of the Faroe Islands and China/Macedonia. Furthermore, in the almost 90 years since the World Cup began, Qatar has failed to qualify for a single tournament. So what?
Let’s be reminded that FIFA’s motto is “For the Game. For the World”. If the argument is that Qatar has not got a great footballing presence, then what better way to change that than by awarding them the rights to host the biggest footballing and sporting tournament in the entire world? To discriminate against them on the basis that they do not have a good football pedigree is to be intolerant to change and increased mass participation of our beloved sport, one that is supposed to be for the entire world, not just the privileged few.
Qatari Summertime Heat
The World Cup is traditionally held in the summer months of June and July, and has been so for the past 90 years since the World Cup’s inception in Uruguay 1930. But hosting the tournament in Qatar poses a new threat, in that Qatari summertime weather, particularly during these two months, typically gets to 40 degrees Celsius and beyond. This, according to critics, poses a serious health and safety risk not only for the players, but also for the millions of overseas fans travelling to the tournament.
Proposals to move the tournament to November/December and make it a winter tournament instead has also seen fierce backlash, due to the potential impact the competition will have on domestic leagues and in particular, the busy Christmas period of the English Premier League.
FIFA’s ability to adapt and change to new requirements should be commended rather than condemned. It is neither FIFA’s nor Qatar’s fault that their weather is the way that is, neither have control over it. So what do you do when you can’t change something? You adapt to it. You modify your behaviour and accommodate the change because there is something of greater value worth protecting. Discriminating against a country’s ability to host the World Cup based on their weather is akin to discriminating based on their wealth or their colour. The former didn’t stop South Africa in 2010 or Brazil in 2014 from hosting the World Cup and the latter smacks of racism. Are we now seriously encouraging and endorsing “Weatherism”?
FIFA has attempted to respond positively to this change. The question is, how are we going to respond to it? How are countries and local football associations (e.g. FA) going to positively work with FIFA to realise the opportunities of this change. By the way, I am sure that given the choice, more people (men and women) would rather spend a footballing holiday in Qatar in December than face the obligatory extended family get together and gluttony over Christmas.
Now I know that in the past I have had some less favourable things to say about FIFA, particularly regarding their systematic problem with corruption and the alleged role it played in awarding Qatar this World Cup. But at the end of the day, what’s done is done. Enough with the excuses, let’s just get on with it. There is lots of work to be done, lots of interdependencies to be managed and lots of stakeholders to be engaged and persuaded. Change isn’t easy. The sooner we start to pool our resources to achieve the same vision, the better.
Ebony is a recent 2:1 law graduate from the University of East Anglia. Passionate about marketing and sports, she is currently writing a book on business transformation change lessons from the World Cup 2014. She is also a sports writer at ebonylovessports.blogspot.co.uk