So there is a limit to the power of the English Premier League. Indisputably the most entertaining, popular money-spinning league in world football, the world does not, it seems, revolve around it. At least not yet.
Fresh from a remarkable UK television deal worth $8 billion, the Premier League has been told it must fit in with the Qatar 2022 World Cup in November and December. At the Taskforce meeting in Doha for once their voice seemed no more important than any other league, any other nation. And maybe that’s just how it should be.
Though let’s be clear on the Premier League and churlish criticisms of it. Football changed, probably irrevocably, with the famous (infamous?) television deal at the start of 1990s that effectively married Sky and football. We all tactically choose to forget this changed football for good as well as bad. Yes, I still love the thought of a 3 o’clock kick off on a Saturday afternoon, and am near emotional watching re-runs of matches from the late 1970s and 80s on muddy pictures with childhood heroes.
We all KNOW football is trying to be a business. Failing usually. The Premier League is one of the undeniable business successes of Britain. Transcending sport and always managing to maintain the upper hand.
It has taken everyone involved a long way, particularly estate agents in the posh areas around Liverpool, Manchester and Surrey.
But its power does have a limit. The Premier League ultimately comes under FIFA’s umbrella. And it is A football association. Not THE Football Association. It is not a separate entity. It is not the NFL. It is not WWE. It is a league. A powerful, thrilling, entertaining, rich league. But just a league.
I am not a Premier League basher. Quite the opposite. The Manchester derby in 2015 is not what it was in 1989 that I loved. But the 1980s version was different from 1920. That’s life. Things change. I wish the peerless, wonderful Brian Moore was still alive and commentating on a match that cost five pounds that the working classes could afford, but a lot has happened since then and only part of it has been bad.
And so I believe Richard Scudamore has every right to stand in Doha and question the football calendar. Why should he do anything other than stick up for his league, and yes that happens to involve the traditions of English football.
But the Premier League should accept something that should be blatantly obvious to all. Europe may have a loud, important voice, but it is not the only voice.
A gap in the English season, inconvenient to its main league. So what? They can play games between Christmas and the New Year and extend the season into the summer of 2023. Big deal.
It is so easy to lash out at Qatar, but on this issue its critics still refuse to play fair.
WHY did FIFA not have, in its statutes, the right to play a World Cup outside of June and July in the first place? I have put this face-to-face to FIFA’s Sepp Blatter and General Secretary Jerome Valcke, suggesting current rules are misguided and discriminate against hot countries. They have politely accepted it is a good question and they don’t have an answer.
The Qatar Supreme Committee bid for a World Cup that was slated for summer but that was not a crime. It should have been moved to winter from the start. SO move it. It’s seven years away. Just about enough time for whinging one-eyed British hacks (most of whom are male) to buy some sun screen for the ‘brutal’ temperatures in the early 20s.
If you live outside of Britain, count yourself lucky. I agree with a shrewd sports news boss at Al Jazeera, an Australian for the record, about the bizarre low quality of some British news and opinion. This morning for instance I was subjected to a couple of minutes of UK radio ‘debate’ about 2022.
Apparently “Australia should have been awarded the World Cup because it needs to be taken to new territories.”
Australia should have been awarded the World Cup because it needs to be taken to new territories?!
And what is exactly Qatar in World Cup terms? Maybe they hosted it once when I wasn’t looking.
But please don’t misunderstand my point. I’d love to see a World Cup in Australia at some stage. It’s just that, as you may know If you have read this column before, I accept a World Cup in the Middle East is an important thing, the right thing. This is not just about Qatar. It’s an important point made repeatedly by 2022 Supreme Committee Chief Exec Hassan al-Thawadi.
No-one needs to apologise it is not in a time and place to suit Europe. And no-one should apologise it is not in a time and a place to suit the English Premier League. (Where many clubs, as you know, are actually financially backed in the Middle East).
From corruption allegations to the treatment of migrant workers, important questions have been raised over the last few years.
But the issue of winter needs to be treated separately as a slow progression towards a sensible solution.
Winter of discontent? With apologies to that fine Englishman William Shakespeare:
The European clubs doth protest too much, methinks.
Lee Wellings is the Sports Correspondent for Al Jazeera English based in London. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lee on twitter @LeeW_Sport