FIFA's awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar was always going to have consequences, and on Tuesday, Australia's Football Federation (FFA) hinted at a possible fallout that could end up haunting the sport’s international governing body.
Following concerns over LGBT rights, alcohol bans and a bidding process alleged to be corrupt, FFA chief Frank Lowy revealed his organization was contemplating legal action against FIFA in the wake of president Sepp Blatter’s admission that the event will likely be switched to the winter.
“Australia invested heavily in the World Cup process,” Lowry told the BBC, explaining that as his country had bid for the 2022 World Cup they were entitled to some sort of compensation if the tournament was moved from June and July to January and February.
He continued: “Since December 2010 Australia has been careful not to let its misgiving about the process be interpreted as sour grapes. But now, with increasing speculation about a change that will impact on us as one of the bidding nations...we have made our position public.”
Lowy’s position is simple. Given that the FFA, the 2022 organizing committee and the country itself “invested heavily” in preparing a bid for a summer World Cup, their investments should be returned if, on a whim, FIFA adjusts the competition dates—a decision that would no doubt rile the other bidders as well.
In other words, Lowy is threatening to sue FIFA, and he might not be alone in the suit.
Each of the United States, South Korea and Japan also placed bids for the World Cup in question, and as their proposals were based on the June-July timetable that has been the norm, they too could seek compensation if the dates are changed.
As they would see it, and as Australia already sees it, FIFA’s inability to conduct a fair, transparent bidding process gives them a legal leg to stand on.
But would a court see it the same way?
In a recent interview with Inside World Football, Blatter claimed that the bidding documents did not expressly say the World Cup “must” take place in June and July—only that it was “FIFA’s wish” that it be held at that time.
He added that he had come to the conclusion that “playing the World Cup in the heat of Qatar’s summer was simply not a responsible thing to do,” and on Monday, FIFA’s top medical officer agreed with him.
“I am sure the Qataris have the technical skill to organize a tournament where teams could play and train in a stable, acceptable temperature, but it’s about the fans,” remarked Michel D’Hooghe, chairman of FIFA’s medical committee.
“They will need to travel from venue to venue, and I think it’s not a good idea for them to do that in temperatures of 47 degrees Celsius or more.” (BBC)
FIFA, it would seem, will draw their battle lines around a safety question. Australia, and perhaps the United States, South Korea and Japan, will counter for damages due after a faulty process.
It won’t be pretty if it goes to court, but FIFA has made its own bed here. All the fallout over the coming years will be entirely its fault.
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