Another opportunity to consider what to wish for in 2023 and beyond. Another year. It’s not difficult to get negative and expect things won’t ever change (or possibly not to improve things). And it is true that some things take a long time to become reality. Moreover, some never do. Because of this, if you look back at my previous wishes, you’ll notice that certain things keep coming up.
1 I’m not just blaming Qatar and Russia, not at all; The majority of bidders also engaged in highly dubious ethical conduct, including those who frequently pretend to be clean, like Australia, England, and the United States. The Garcia report contains everything, and it is not a coincidence that more than half of those who selected the hosts of the World Cup in 2018 and 2022 were later banned or indicted. The way the World Cup hosts are chosen has been changed by FIFA; instead of a 25-member committee, all 211 member associations vote. This should make it harder to rig the process, at least on paper. But we also need to be vigilant and open, or else we’ll always be vulnerable.
2that no nation of Qatar’s size will ever be permitted to host a World Cup on its own again, as the tournament should be about bringing football to as many fans as possible and leaving a lasting legacy. I’m aware that having eight venues within an hour’s drive and the whole “compact World Cup” thing appealed to some people. I haven’t. This is not a criticism of Qatar; in a perfect world, it would have shared this with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, possibly Iran, and Oman as well. Before the Saudi-UAE blockade made it impossible, it may have also been possible.) Although it may be inconvenient for journalists like me to spread out a World Cup over a larger population and area, it ensures that more people will be able to experience the event, leaves a larger legacy, and saves money on stadiums and infrastructure that may never be used again (or are later decommissioned). This was not a problem for wealthy Qatar, but it is for 99 percent of the countries in the world.
That the framework used to decide injury time in Qatar 2022 become ordinary. Personally, I would eliminate the running clock completely. But because that won’t happen, I much prefer a system like this, where the fourth official uses objective measures to figure out how much time needs to be added: VAR interventions, injuries, goal celebrations, etc. It makes a lot more sense than the current system, in which referees add whatever they want at the end of each half. What’s next? Make the calculation of the fourth official public: X sum for this objective, Y sum for that objective, Z sum for the injury, etc.
4. that the international game continues to become more global despite club football becoming increasingly Euro-centric (if not Premier League-centric plus a few other teams-centric). Every continent’s teams made it to the knockout stage. Morocco, an African team, reached the semifinals. Our first World Cup was held in an Arab nation. For the first time since 2002, a non-European team (Argentina) won it. I believe that these things all matter. International football has the potential to provide a counterbalance to the increasingly polarized club game. Also, that must be sound.
5. that people are aware that if they are going to use sports, particularly the biggest in the world, to convey a message, it is much more effective to be prepared to face consequences. We remember Muhammad Ali, Colin Kaepernick, Tommy Smith, and John Carlos because they took a stand and faced consequences. The European footballers sporting the “OneLove” armband? They retreated as soon as they were threatened with a booking. Which is the reason they will not be associated with standing firm.
6. that migrant workers in Qatar (and other Gulf countries) are not forgotten now that the world’s attention is elsewhere. Qatar eliminated its kafala system, which was similar to indentured servitude, and improved the working conditions of its workers under pressure from FIFA, labor unions, and public opinion. The question is whether or not things will go back to how they were before, or whether or not Qatar keeps its word. If it does, it might even serve as an example to countries like the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and others, showing that you can run a modern, prosperous country with a lot of migrant workers while still protecting workers’ rights and, wait for it, gasp! perhaps even permit labor unions.
. that the members of the club football team keep in mind that sometimes less is more; that we examine our domestic and continental rivals thoroughly and are prepared to cut costs and reevaluate our strategies. This could mean reducing the top flight in the biggest leagues to 18 (or better yet, 16) teams or expanding the Europa Conference League, as well as replacing national competitions with cross-border leagues where appropriate (Benelux, Scandinavia, and Baltic Republics come to mind). Moreover, the League Cup in England being canceled.) The European model is built on the sacrosanct pillars of the pyramid system and open access, but we must stop pretending that Moses gave us the current structures when he came down from Mount Sinai. For the majority of their history, they have undergone significant transformation, and there is no reason why this cannot continue.
8. that the Super League verdict be unambiguous, not only to uphold the merit principle but also to help define what football is, whether it is an entertainment industry subfield or a shared cultural phenomenon. One of the many reasons why the original Super League plan didn’t work was that people thought it was just a power grab to make the successful super clubs richer and more powerful. But if the game is just a business, they might have won over more people if they had taken a more measured approach. On the off chance that, then again, it’s all the more a public trust, it’s difficult to see such a power snatch truly succeeding.
9. that UEFA’s financial sustainability regulations, which are taking the place of financial fair play (FFP), not only accomplish their goal but also gain support from the public because we are all weaker without faith in institutions. FFP accomplished its unique goal – – European clubs went from almost $2 billion of total misfortunes pre-FFP to sequential long periods of benefit pre-Coronavirus pandemic – – yet the framework was as yet considered to be innocuous by a lot of people and unjustifiably harsh by others. Additionally, there is still the perception that some clubs have gotten away with breaking the rules.