Javier Tebas was furious. The outspoken president of Spain’s top league arrived in Doha with representatives from the most powerful bodies in football: FIFA; the rest of the game’s major leagues; and the European Club Association, an organization that represents the interests of the teams themselves.
Their mission is to answer a question that no one needs to ask: When exactly should the World Cup be held?
In the run-up to the vote in Zurich, and for several years afterward, Qatar insisted there was no reason why the tournament could not be held in their traditional way in the European summer. Organizers insist that the scorching heat of the Gulf will not be an issue as the plan to equip each stadium with air-conditioning systems has impressed Mayne-Nicholls and his team.
By 2013, however, the mood had changed. A FIFA task force has establish to test the feasibility of moving the World Cup. In early 2015 it reported back, recommending move contest come November and December, right in the middle of the European season attracting a lot of interest and money in the game.
When he arrived in Doha to discuss that year’s theme, Tebas thought the lines were drawn: Leagues and clubs were “against the dates” proposed by FIFA, Tebas said. However, that consensus did not last. The clubs agreed after FIFA to increase the payments they would receive when releasing players for the tournament. Tebas recalled slamming his hands on the table in frustration when the announcement was made. “All for show,” he said. “It feels like we are being tricked.”
In many ways, however, the unwanted disruption of Europe was the least consequence of FIFA’s decision to award Qatar the right to host the World Cup. After all, a short hiatus in a season is far less important than a yearlong shift in the landscape of the game.
Not only was the fate of the World Cup discussed at the meeting of Platini, Sarkozy and the Qatari delegation at the Élysée Palace in November 2010. The future of Paris St.-Germain, Sarkozy’s club too. Supported. (Its president at the time, Sébastien Bazin, was also in Sarkozy’s office that day.) Not only did Qatar want to buy the team, but also set up a sports television station to show its matches. and sponsor the rest of French football. Less than a year later, it did just that.