Add Don Garber to the list of dignitaries on record against a Qatar World Cup. Speaking to a conference on Wednesday, the Major League Soccer commissioner said the 2022 event could be a “monumental disaster” for soccer worldwide, with the potential of moving the tournament from summer adding to the myriad problems surrounding the planned championship.
Speaking on the opening panel of the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports, MLS’s top-ranking executive said reports that former FIFA executive committee member Jack Warner took $1.2 million in bribes could add momentum to the case against Qatar.
“That now is going to get a lot more legs,” Garber said of investigations into the potential bribes (as relayed by the Sports Business Journal). “If more comes out, who knows what happens. It’s very disappointing. It’s an unpleasant aspect of the global football business.”
Garber also talked about the potential to move the event to November 2021 or January 2022, saying, “broadcast partners [in the U.S.] might have a problem with it going up against (NFL) football.”
None of which is news, but Garber’s willingness to go strongly on record is. Whereas the anguish with Qatar having been awarded the World Cup could have waned since the 2010 vote, practical considerations concerning weather and scheduling have seen more big names takes stances against the tournament. Don Garber is just the latest in a series of prominent officials who have expressed issues with the tournament.
“It affects all of us for many, many years,” Garber said, calling the uncertain surrounding the tournament “a very difficult situation for our sport.”
Curiously, few have latched on to the most-obvious reason for moving the tournament: Thousands of people are dying to build the facilities that will be used eight years from now. Television contracts and the global soccer calendar? They don’t mean much in the bigger picture. The 2022 World Cup has already led to the loss of a too many lives, and we’re only three years into this process.
Realistically, it’s going to take a political, not humanitarian solution to get the tournament moved from Qatar, and while a number of big names have joined Garber is criticizing the event, many make the same mistake the commissioner did on Wednesday. While his views of Qatar’s problems each have merit, he also compromised his objectivity by hinting the U.S. could gain from a potential move:
“We certainly would be happy to host it here and have a lot of big stadiums that could turn it around and host on very short notice … But we’re going to be on the sidelines on this and hope that FIFA can resolve this in a way that’s good for the sport.”
The major problem with the skepticism of Qatar is that it has mostly come from English and American media, and while the reasons for their incredulity deserve consideration, many around the globe see the two World Cup bid losers as motivated by sour grapes. Add that to many’s tendency to tune out the unwarranted moralizing that characterizes the English media, and the loudest, strongest complaints about Qatar get ignored.
But just because the messenger has issues doesn’t mean the message is faulty. Qatar is a huge problem, one that’s morphed into a litmus test issue for soccer executives.
Today in Dana Point, Calif., Garber came down in strong opposition to the event. He passed the test.