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Could Fox Sports block a 2022 Winter World Cup?

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is a long nine years away, but the event is already causing sleepless nights for people all across world soccer.  Only months after awarding the 2022 World Cup have FIFA officials made the remarkable discovery that it gets really, really hot in Qatar in the summer.  It's almost like it's in the desert or something.  Amazing!!

FIFA is now in a panic over what to do with the 2022 World Cup to avoid staging the tournament when it's a 106 degree average high temperature in June and July.  FIFA President Sepp Blatter has already admitted in hindsight that the Qatari selection was a "mistake" and is leading a campaign to hold the tournament in the winter.  It's amazing what happens when you take off the oil covered glasses.  Additionally, FIFA's medical chief says a summer tournament would be hazardous for fans and is recommending a change.  

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But there's a reason why every World Cup is held in the summer – a winter tournament would throw the major European leagues into complete and total chaos.  With nearly every major league in the world on an August-May schedule, a winter World Cup would interrupt domestic seasons for two months and throw the entire international soccer calendar into disarray for multiple years.  

If the Winter World Cup does happen, early 2022 is unlikely because of the Winter Olympics.  Therefore, late 2022 is the best possibility, but there's also opposition to the 2022 World Cup in those late fall/early winter months.

According to a lengthy piece in the UK Daily Mail, Fox Sports is willing to go toe to toe with FIFA so as to not have the World Cup in direct competition with their NFL and college football coverage.  In fact, Fox may block the idea of a Winter World Cup, throwing American broadcast rights for the tournament, and maybe even the Qatari World Cup itself, up in the air:

It is virtually certain that football’s world governing body, FIFA, will announce early next month that the 2022 tournament cannot be staged in Qatar in the summer — as originally envisaged when the World Cup was awarded to the emirate three years ago — because of the dangerously high temperatures, which can reach 40 degrees centigrade.

FIFA will propose switching the tournament to winter, but American TV giant Fox have told The Mail on Sunday that they agreed to pay £630million for the rights to screen the World Cup in the summers of 2018 and 2022, not in winter. Industry sources say it is ‘unimaginable’ that they will accept a switch, not at that price.

Will Fox demand FIFA give them a discount for holding the tournament in the winter or could Fox look to back out of their 2022 broadcast commitment completely?  Fox's comment on the record about the summer to winter switch depicts a less-than-cooperative stance if FIFA attempts to hold the tournament in direct competition with the NFL:

"Fox Sports, together with Telemundo (a subsidiary of the mighty NBC), bid £630million ($1billion) for summer World Cups in 2018 and 2022. A Fox spokesman says: ‘Fox Sports bought the World Cup rights with the understanding they would be in the summer as they have been since the 1930s.’

Fox would not comment on potential legal action if the 2022 event moves to winter, but a network insider says the broadcaster ‘will not countenance’ a World Cup being given prominence on US TV between October and December. America’s primary ‘sports property’, NFL football, is screened on Sundays in that time and the hugely popular college football is screened on Saturdays."

This 2022 Qatari World Cup is certainly a fluid situation with numerous twists and turns to come.  With a group as questionable as FIFA at the helm, trying to use common sense to predict what might happen is a fruitless endeavor.  

Fox should go ahead with its planned coverage if FIFA abandons Qatar to hold a summer tournament in either the United States or Australia.

But if the Winter World Cup in Qatar is a reality, who knows what could happen stateside?  It'd be a major blow for American soccer having to directly compete against the NFL and college football.  The overall coverage of the World Cup would be significantly marginalized versus the summer months when it has June and July largely to itself on the American sports calendar.  Fox would likely have to relegate games to Fox Sports 1 and 2 on the weekends as well, if it even still wants to broadcast the World Cup.

We could see Fox take legal action over their FIFA contract, we could even see them exit the tournament completely.  If that happens, could ESPN or even NBC bid for the tournament?  What then happens to the Fox-FIFA relationship and other tournaments the network is scheduled to broadcast?  Before it's all said and done, this could evolve into one of the more calamitous sagas televised sports has ever seen in America.

[UK Daily Mail]

Matt Yoder

About Matt Yoder

Managing Editor of Awful Announcing and award winning sportswriter. Bloguin consigliere. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

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