8 Amazing Stadiums
Such a bad World Cup?
Today, I have decided to look at the positives emanating from Qatar. None, you say? That’s not quite true. Yes, there have been a million denunciations, complaints, and gibes about corruption. We all know what happened. But I feel there are positives to be gleaned from the reality on the ground. There are potentially lessons which could improve the notion of what a World Cup is, and where it should be held and how.
Fifa may have accidentally have done something right
So what is good from Qatar? I have figured out several aspects which they, and the setting, have got right, and even the restrictions imposed may be useful. First up is the proximity of the stadiums, many are close to each other and even the furthest is 2 and a half hours by public transport. This is excellent, truly a boon for fans, and footballers. Some of my brothers went to America in 1994. The distances were huge and their ability to watch any other matches than Ireland were very limited. And even within the group there was long travel. One really huge plus for Qatar. I will come back to this later.
A fairer World Cup?
A small country doesn’t have any real home advantage, which in a sporting sense, puts a lot of previous World Cups under scrutiny. Do the real World Champions emerge from a big team winning at home? I will get back to this as well.
No Alcohol = No Trouble?
The alcohol restrictions? In one sense the Qataris have done the stupid football fan a favour. I have been at many matches where hooligans have run riot, fuelled by the demon drink. In a country such as Qatar, lots would have ended up behind bars. They would have no tolerance for public drunkenness. Wembley at the Euros would have been a big wake up call for the Qatar regime. I suspect they decided long ago about this strategy, and they would spring it too late for any real protest to emerge. They should have been upfront about this but I suspect, judging by the evidence thus far, this will be a peaceful World Cup. And something to think about for future World Cups. Fans can celebrate at home, get drunk and their own authorities can deal with it. So far there is little evidence that the colour and joy of the World Cup is diminished by a lack of alcohol. Is alcohol mandatory? They have thrown it up for debate. Let’s have this discussion. I do like having a pint at matches myself but I would be happy to give it up if it meant no hooliganism. Soccer is pretty much the only sport associated with it. The Olympics can be held with fans of all countries intermingling which means small spaces like cities can host them.
Closer is better all round
Let’s get back to my first point – that all matches should be close together and easily accessible by public transport. It means fans and players can get to matches without any big hassle. You could probably go to all four matches a day if you were so inclined. This was not possible at previous tournaments. So small countries (or countries where the citizens are too poor to turn up in large numbers) can have a greater fanbase at their games, and certainly attendances at such matches seem bigger to me. I have often seen half empty stadiums in the past. These seem reasonably full. They have allowed their own citizens much lower prices so that it is little economic burden to go to matches for the locals. Around 5 euros for restricted vision and around 10 euros for the rest of the cheaper seats. As opposed to 26 to 65 euros for international fans. I wouldn’t fancy restricted views if I have travelled that far so 65 euros per match could mount up a bit but still, taking in some extra ones seems feasible. It is one huge argument though, for having the stadiums close together and easy to access by metro, etc.
The closest World Cup ever
The teams can have one training ground for the whole tournament and no crossing of timelines as can happen in America, for example. The countries would love that. It makes for a fairer tournament as home teams are often based around their capital city and other countries have arduous travel. This is something that for sure should be open for debate. There are many pluses to having the stadiums close together.
How can it be achieved?
Now there are 2 obvious ways to do this, one is only have the trophy in a small country like Qatar. Singapore and Hongkong strike me as possible in east Asia. In Europe, maybe the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg could organize enough decent grounds to make this possible. Some of the oil rich Arab states in west Asia could also do it. I am not sure of what candidates there are in Africa, North and South America and Australasia. However we could select 2 from each continent and that brings us to 12. 48 years before a country gets to host it twice so it keeps things fresh. I would envision that you could have big countries being the nominal host alongside the small country if that is deemed important. There is a debate here for sure.
These guys dictate that venues must be far apart and they are winning
That brings me to my second option. Have the Cup in the bigger countries but insist on a geographically small area like London, Birmingham or around Liverpool and Manchester in England. Scotland may also be feasible in this regard. I am sure Germany, France, Italy and Spain could also find a way to have enough top stadiums close enough to make this work. 8 stadiums is what we have in Qatar. If we include Twickenham, London could surely do it, for example. There would have to be a strong debate about security, though, if all fans are geographically close together and are allowed drink. Such places could, at best, have restricted alcohol sales. A small country may be able to have a strict regime. Singapore as I mentioned earlier, has.
A massive World Cup up next with no complaints. Why?
Of course the next World Cup is going to be a big bloated nonsense of which there seems little protest. The USA, Canada and Mexico? 48 countries? Madness for sure. You would need very big pockets to follow just your team all the way to the final, or maybe even for the group stage alone. Many matches will struggle for attendances. Teams will face tiring plane trips. Lucky Dennis Bergkamp is retired.
And next time we go way too big
The other area I highlighted is home advantage. England got their sole win at home. Teams try to make it as easy on their own players and as difficult for their opponents. Qatar found no real home advantage and from a sporting viewpoint this must be good? The best team in the world should win, yes? Small countries are much better in this regard.
Debate is crucial
So, Qatar has opened up a potential debate on a World Cup that is good for players, for fans, for attendances, for banning alcohol and thus probably hooliganism, and for sporting spirit. Will we have this debate? I doubt it. Fifa are only interested in money. The fact that their greed has allowed a World Cup to happen that is far different from all others is inadvertent. Good things have been shown, a better way is possible if we have a serious discussion. Instead we get a humungous, interminable, USA, Mexico and Canada which is surely the antithesis of any sporting ideals. We need to decide what type of World Cup do we want and can we apply the good things highlighted here in the context of, say London? However sometimes I feel I am the only one arguing for a better way. Because I don’t feel we will have any debate, will we? The fans don’t have any say. Thus it has always been.