SPFL hope for 2022 World Cup schedule headache

THE Scottish football authorities will wait until a formal decision has been taken on the dates of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar before deciding what impact it will have on the domestic leagues.

Hassan Al Thawadi, head of Qatar's 2022 World Cup organising committee, speaks to the press. Picture: Getty
Hassan Al Thawadi, head of Qatar's 2022 World Cup organising committee, speaks to the press. Picture: Getty

In a statement issued yesterday, Fifa revealed that a task force set up address the concerns attached to hosting the tournament during the summer months when temperatures regularly exceed 40C had come back with a proposal to stage a shorter tournament during November and December. Coming in the middle of a raft of domestic league seasons, the competition schedule would be squeezed to try to minimise the disruption but with the final apparently scheduled for just two days before Christmas, the proposals have already faced opposition.

With fears growing for the safety of players and supporters in the baking desert heat, the task force ruled out January/February because of a clash with the Winter Olympics. Uefa delegates had expressed a preference for early in the year but with Ramadan rendering April unviable, the only option remaining was post-September once temperatures drop.

With so many domestic leagues in full swing by then, including the Scottish Professional Football Leagues, it is anticipated that the competition days will be reduced to enable a quicker conclusion. But until the dates are discussed in more depth at the next meeting of the Fifa executive committee, in Zurich on 19 and 20 March, the Scottish league chiefs say they cannot make any decisions as to how the rearranged dates will disrupt the Scottish domestic scene.

Hassan Al Thawadi, head of Qatar's 2022 World Cup organising committee, speaks to the press. Picture: Getty

“The SPFL will await the final decision on scheduling for the 2022 World Cup before we consider the implications for fixturing,” said a league spokesman. “Clearly, in seven years’ time, we all hope that Scotland’s participation is part of the equation.”

Even without playing an active part, it would seem unthinkable that a decision could be taken that would see the Scottish league operate unchanged, with matches being scheduled to clash with the game’s showcase event, especially at a time of the year when weather is poor and money is tight, attendances would undoubtedly be hit.

But any break in proceedings, especially with the final being mooted for 23 December, one of the busiest periods of the season, could cause chaos. A forced shutdown over the festive period in 2022 could lead to a massive fixture pile-up unless the preceding summer shutdown is squeezed or the season extended well beyond the usual May conclusion in 2023. But in yesterday’s statement the SPFL said it remained fully involved in the discussion about dates. “We are fully engaged in these discussions, through our membership of the Association of European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) and Neil Doncaster’s position as a Board member of the EPFL. The EPFL has recently issued a statement on the issue and we support and agree with this statement in its entirety.”

That statement made the European leagues’ stance very clear. “The Association of European Professional Football Leagues and the clubs have expressed their disagreement with respect to this proposal which will perturb and cause great damage to the normal running of the European domestic competitions.”