Chris Lakey: World Cup 2022 in Qatar is going to play havoc with the Premier League ... and maybe more
- Credit: ap
Remember the threats of widespread hooliganism at the World Cup? Never happened.
Or some underhand jiggery-pokerey by the hosts? That didn't either.
Maybe racist behaviour? Thankfully not. Or corruption exposed? Nope.
To the disappointment of the sceptics, and the delight of most of the rest of us, the whole World Cup was almost too good to be true.
Now we have four years to wait for the next one – and if you thought Russia was going to be problematic, then you ain't seen nothing yet.
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If you thought the heat of host country Qatar was going to be the biggest issue, then think again – English football has an awful lot more on its plate, even before a ball has been kicked in anger.
The next World Cup will start on November 21 and finish on December 18 – pushed back, for the first time, from its usual summer dates because of the weather conditions.
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The knock-on effect is immense.
First off, the Premier League will have to take a break while the World Cup is on – it seems likely the season will begin in June. Most European clubs have a winter break – the Premier League has only just agreed they will have a weekend off, split over a fortnight, in February, from 2019-20. So that plan will need changing before we're used to it.
So if we start in June, we may well end up finishing the domestic season in July, 2023.
Where to begin with the questions?
Well, what happens to Football League clubs? Do they continue, even if they have players on World Cup duty?
And if the season ends in July, when will the following season begin? Does it mean we will have wall-to-wall football for goodness knows how long?
England are going to need time before the World Cup, for friendlies and training camp. So if the 2021-22 season ends as usual, in May, and the new season begins in June, what happens to the 'off season'? Do players play through? Has anyone wondered what this might do to fitness levels? Exhaustion coaches anyone?
And when the season begins in June, at what stage will players need to start turning their attentions to the World Cup?
This year, England played two friendlies in March and two pre-World Cup friendlies in June, a couple of weeks before the tournament began. The squad joined up together on May 21 - 30 days before their opening World Cup game.
By that reckoning, if England (this is all assuming they qualify of course) play their first game of the 2022 World Cup six days after it starts, that means the players would get together on October 28.
No matter how far they go in the tournament, they would need a rest before resuming domestic battle. How long do World Cup players need to recharge their batteries?
Harry Kane was going to take a couple of weeks off, but Spurs are already wondering how many of their players – they had nine players in the World Cup semi-finals – will be ready for the opening game of the season at Newcastle on August 11 – that's a calendar month after the semi-finals. #prayforspurs
So with the 2022 World Cup ending on December 18, it might be mid-January before they return.
Currently, the plan appears to be to restart domestic games on Boxing Day, presumably so we can fill ourselves with festive footy, as per usual. Except we won't, because the top players will be missing
What it means of course is that for three seasons, beginning in 2020-21, everything will be shuffled to fit.
And don't start on the transfer window.
It's complicated enough now, but will the domestic season have started before the window closes? And will the January window open when some players are still feeling their way back to full fitness?
The Qatar decision was made, in December, 2010, by a discredited Fifa regime, which had enough power not to bother about the likes of the Premier League, who charge TV companies billions for the right to screen their matches.
Their decision stunk then and it still stinks.
Just when you thought it was all completely mad don't forget it is still possible the next World Cup could feature 16 more teams, increasing the chances of Wales, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland qualifying – and therefore taking away more players from the Football League.
The old Fifa legacy has caused a headache which its successors seems pretty keen on replicating, whatever the cost.
This long hot summer brings back memories of long trips from the fens to the north Norfolk coast for evenings at the old West Runton Pavilion.
Funny how summer does that to you and today, lest it slips past, is the anniversary of a momentous sporting occasion.
On July 21, 1981, England won a remarkable third Ashes Test by 18 runs at Headingley. It was a result which cemented the name of Ian Botham in English sporting history.
This cricketing brute took six wickets in Australia's first innings and then made an unbeaten 149 in England's second (following on) before the tourists were dismissed for 111.
I recall watching it all unfold, quite disbelieving that this one-man show looked like it would never stop.
England went on to win the series - widely known as 'Botham's Ashes' - 3-1.
While Botham was strutting his stuff, the less ebullient Bob Willis was doing his bit with the ball as well, taking eight Aussie wickets in the second innings.
They've had a shocker
I make no apologies for going off the beaten track here, but in the week Donald Trump has made a complete you-know-what of himself again, it seems appropriate to point out that in America, it appears there are more like him...
I bring you the story of Jaelene Hinkle, who plays for the US women's football team. Hinkle, 25, has just been recalled after refusing to play for her country on religious grounds – seems her Christian faith meant she could not wear a rainbow-coloured shirt honouring LGBT pride month last summer.
After her recall she tweeted: 'God is good! Honoured. Excited. Ready.'
Sorry, Jaelene, but it ought to be pointed out that your god had nothing to do with your recall; that was down to football officials who do not have the Jublianis to say you were wrong then and you are wrong now.
Let's hope it was a presidential slip of the tongue and instead of saying god is great you actually meant to say sorry.