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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.
The Super League? It is very difficult to get a handle on this news. I have decided to start on the positive because everything seems negative. Can I see any positives? I sat down and drew a mindmap to see what I came up with. The only way I could see positives was through the mindset of the owners. What will they get if they succeed? Stability, profits and, crucially, control. They will make the rules. If necessary, they can ditch Uefa, Fifa and all country associations. New league, new rules, and a stable way to plan the future. Let’s take my club, Arsenal, and extrapolate from them my arguments. They have been weakened in recent years and have dropped down the table. Similar has happened to Liverpool and Manchester United in recent years. A.C Milan and Inter as well. Probably only Athletico of the Spanish teams truly fear this but Juventus have had to comeback from demotion and pesky control from above. Now, with one bound, Arsenal are back on top, competing with the best. Leicester and Everton can whistle Dixie if they like. Let’s face it, this is no surprise. This song keeps coming back, staying in our head as a permanent earworm. The big clubs, boosted by the incredible appeal of the Premier League (6 clubs, baby) and the Champions League, don’t want to lose that massive TV money. And they don’t want any more newcomers like Leicester spoiling their profits. Arsenal v Manchester United is a big game, Fulham v Burnley is, neh! 20 teams involved. Seems to indicate that there have been soundings and quiet agreements. Bayern, Dortmund, Ajax, Porto and PSG spring to mind. A couple of French as well? Red Bull? Seems like a good move for them. The German clubs have to hold fire as their ownership is different. But it is a symbiotic relationship, based on them being at the top table. So, who has the power? Whenever I see a struggle, I ask myself who has the power? Let’s take my previous paragraph as correct and the rest of the top teams want to come on board. They probably have the power, at least to wreck the powerbase of FiFa/Uefa. The associations have the most to lose as they are not popular among football fans. They have been corrupt and inept so often that few feel they act in the best interests of football. So they will want to survive this challenge to keep their powerbase and their gravy train going. Alexander Ceferin Are we really relying on him to fight this battle? And that, my friends, means a compromise. There is a huge amount of room between what we have at the moment and this new breakaway. Plenty of scope for both sides to claim victory. It is also possible that we have seen a enormous amount of sabre rattling and a rough agreement has already been sorted, and after a fake fight, the real new deal will be unveiled. That, if true, in some ways will be good, as a lot of things will stay the same. However, the balance of power will have shifted to the clubs. Fifa/Uefa will survive but weaker. One thing that won’t change or be compromised is that the big clubs can’t drop out. They need that or this whole power grab won’t work out. So they may allow some form of promotion and relegation but only those who get promoted will be relegated. Say 5 teams come in the first year, after that the lowest 2-3 of the promoted clubs get relegated. Still keeps the American dream ideal that a team can come from nowhere and eat at the big table. Bye bye Fifa/Uefa? I cannot see any way that Fifa/Uefa can come out of this stronger. The big clubs could potentially make the total breakaway work. These clubs fanbases, particularly if the other big clubs come on board, are, I guess, far bigger than all the rest of the world’s teams combined. They seem, to my mind, to have the marginally stronger hand, certainly than the world bodies. Do they have a stronger hand than the fans? Gianni Infantino. Or this guy to be our hero? It is hard to say. I have seen many changes in my time. Most, like this, are for the benefit of the powerful. A smaller premier league, bigger tv money for the big clubs, rejigging the Champions League and Europa league so top teams stay involved near the end. Manchester United are in the semifinal of the Europa League long after being dumped out of the Champions league. Allowing owners to leverage the assets of clubs to take over, meaning the clubs have huge debts. Billionaire owners distorting all rules of fair competition to the detriment of small clubs. The fans keep going along with everything. Is there a parting position? Where they say no way? So far, I haven’t seen it. The only sure thing I can say for certain is that the European Super League clubs chose now, before the season ended to make their move. On the surface that looks crazy. But is it? Can Uefa really stop all affected championships, cups and the European trophies now without looking bad? And the Euros for the summer? How will that play out for them? Will they end up looking as inept as they always do? The big clubs have put a gun to their head. Have Uefa the cojones to stand up to them? And do they believe they have the support of the footballing community if they do so? And even if they do believe so, do they really? Can we really take power back? I guess you want my conclusion with the limited knowledge we have at the moment? I suspect it is a done deal. After a phony war, a compromise will be reached that keeps many things the same, except that the big clubs have far more power. If you want to know what I would like to see happen, I will oblige. It is that the footballing community take them on and win. I hate the idea of relying on Uefa/Fifa to fight our battles and don’t trust them. Both of the sides need to be taken on and defeated and a new controlling body set up. All these billionaire owners be thrown on the street. Only fan organisations can own clubs and the ideal of true, fair, sporting competition be brought back. We love our clubs, but slowly, we have come to hate many aspects of them. Only fans can achieve those ideals. It can be done. Let’s make it happen. I don't trust what's behind those glasses