World sport’s leading governing bodies must do more to safeguard athletes and spectators whilst also continuing the development of sporting interest around the world.
World Rugby, IAAF and FIFA are the latest governing bodies to be criticised over the awarding of sporting events to Japan and Qatar.
The recent arrival of Typhoon Hagibis in Japan sent shockwaves around the entire sporting sphere, with the Rugby World Cup currently taking place across the country. With a minimum of 43 deaths and over 110,000 emergency workers deployed to rescue those in isolation, Japan currently finds itself dealing with a national emergency whilst also hosting a major sporting event.
Whilst World Rugby had no way of forecasting the typhoon when awarding Japan the tournament, such frequent adverse weather conditions in Asia should have been accounted for better.
This national tragedy proves to be another point on a lengthy list of the problematic hosting of sporting events with Doha 2019 providing equally serious issues.
In Qatar earlier this year, the hosting of the Athletics World Championships proved to add further problems to an already tarnished sport. Major sporting events are meant to increase the overall interest in the sport, not make a mockery of it.
However, the constant scenes of half-empty stadiums (at best) and alarming health concerns add more fuel to an already raging fire for the IAAF.
The I newspaper reported during the tournament that one commentator had plenty to say about the farcical nature of the women’s 100m final: “It’s an embarrassment to the sport and an indictment of the people who chose to bring it here.
“The population here has no interest in what is playing out and the quality of the sport, some of which has been excellent, has done nothing to change it. All of that was predictable from the moment the decision was announced in 2014.”
Such damning remarks point towards the need for a change in tact about how major sporting events are awarded. However, that’s not the end of the story for sport in Qatar.
Despite Michel Platini being arrested in June 2019 over the awarding of the FIFA World Cup to the Middle Eastern country, it will be going ahead in 2022. Not only will this add major disruption to the football calendar in Europe and the rest of the world, but it also indicates that FIFA, much like the IAAF, value financial progression over spectatorial enjoyment. That shouldn’t be a surprise, and maybe that’s the point. Increasingly, sports fans are becoming more and more let down by those who are responsible for providing major sports events.
Remember the sunny days watching England reach the World Cup semi-final last summer? You can forget that, with Qatar 2022 set to take place over November and December 2022. And, with flight prices going far into the thousands, fans from Europe and the Americas will find it a hard task to watch their nations in world football’s most prestigious tournament.
It’s not only the fans who will suffer, though, it’s the players too. As already mentioned, the disruption to major football leagues, including the Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga, looks to be causing more hassle than good.
However, more alarmingly, the conditions in which players will be competing is likely to take a toll on their bodies – affecting quality of performance not only at the World Cup, but also when they return to domestic football.
Similar concerns were voiced recently, with the hosting of the Athletics World Championships in Doha leading to several drop-outs in the women’s marathon, amongst other events.
All of the aforementioned factors and examples point towards the need for serious change in the way that sporting events are awarded to countries. Of course, the World Championships can’t be held in the US every four years. Neither can the FIFA World Cup be held in Brazil, Germany or the UK. However, what we need to see is an improvement in the way that sport’s major governing bodies award flagship events such as the FIFA World Cup, Rugby World Cup or Athletics World Championships to nations.
Otherwise, there will just be a continued risk of either losing interest or risking a serious decrease in quality of performance.