Could the Gulf benefit from a Pan-Arabia World Cup?
If Europe can share a tournament in 2020, why can’t we?Peter Iantorno December 23, 2014
Last month we ran a story about why the UAE should host the 2022 World Cup instead of Qatar. It stirred up quite a vociferous reaction, with some people agreeing strongly, some people vehemently opposing the idea and some questioning the legitimacy of the whole concept, since the UAE never actually registered a bid in the first place.
Since that article was published, a FIFA ethics committee has carried out a confidential report claiming that there was no corruption involved in either of the 2018 or 2022 World Cup bidding processes. While some considered that report to be the end of the matter, last week's announcement that Michael Garcia, the man who led the investigation, has resigned from his place on the committee amid claims of foul play, shows us that there's still clearly much more to the whole affair than meets the eye.
In response to the resignation, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said that at least some of the previously confidential report will now be published, although various sensitive details such as names will be removed.
The whole affair has been very messy, and it certainly has left a bad taste in the mouths of football fans. However, as with everything else in life, with challenges, we see the opportunities, and although Qatar's bid has been shrouded in controversy, one thing it has done is show that the Middle East is now a serious contender to host major global sporting events.
While of course the argument for removing Qatar's right to host the 2022 World Cup is now null and void, because ultimately FIFA are the only ones in a position to do that and we all know that's not going to happen, we believe there's always room to speculate on what might have been, or even what could still happen in future tournaments.
With Euro 2020 set to be held in several host cities all over Europe, it got us thinking, what's stopping the GCC countries from bidding for a joint World Cup? So with that in mind, here's why a Pan-Arabia World Cup would be not only brilliant for the Gulf, but also great for the world of football: Transport
No longer is the Gulf some sort of arid sandy expanse where travelling between countries is difficult and costly. Of course, the huge swathes of desert are still there, but with the region now being host to some of the world's largest and best-connected international airports (Dubai International Airport was the second busiest in the world last year with almost 66 million passengers passing though), it's easy to reach from almost anywhere in the world.
And with the plans for the new Trans-Gulf Railway, which could potentially link Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman by a giant rail route, getting around the region would be far easier than it has been in previous years. No white elephants
We hate to bring up the Qatar subject again, but it's a perfect example of why holding a World Cup in many different host cities around the region would make far more sense than holding it in one small country.
None of the countries in the GCC have a particularly strong football infrastructure already in existence, meaning that any single host must build lots of new stadiums to meet FIFA's strict criteria. Qatar announced that it will build nine brand-new stadiums especially for the World Cup, and it doesn't matter what anyone says, there's no way that a country that size needs that many state-of the art football grounds, so after the tournament they're bound to be surplus to requirements.
However, if the tournament was spread around the region, it would mean only one or two stadiums from each country would be used, therefore no one place would be burdened with the potentially costly white elephants that Qatar surely will be. The region is football mad
When you consider the fact that no GCC country has ever progressed past the round of 16 in a World Cup (and the only team to do that was Saudi Arabia at USA 1994), the region is still absolutely crazy about football.
And it's not just the likes of the European and Premier League giants that GCC fans are passionate about. An impressive 68,000 packed into Saudi Arabia's Riyadh Stadium to whiteness their side's 2-1 defeat to Qatar in the final of the 2014 Gulf Cup of Nations.