Surprise date-change overshadows World Cup 100-day countdown
DOHA, Aug 12, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - FIFA and Qatar organisers on Friday counted
the cost of bringing forward the start of the World Cup by a day as they
launched the 100-day countdown to the event.
Football's ruling body and the wealthy Gulf state both promised action to
help fans, sponsors and broadcasters hit by the change, announced late
Thursday, but did not give details.
The sudden move to bring forward Qatar's match against Ecuador by 24 hours --
to make it the gala opening match -- has only added to the public relations
concerns as the conservative host country counters criticism of its rights
record and fan worries about what to expect when they arrive.
"It is less than three months from the start. This has come out of the blue.
It is not critical but it is a headache," said an executive for one World Cup
broadcaster, speaking on condition of anonymity.
FIFA said its president Gianni Infantino and the six heads of the continental
confederations had unanimously agreed to make Qatar's game and the official
opening ceremony a "stand-alone" event.
"The change ensures the continuity of a long-standing tradition of marking
the start of the World Cup with an opening ceremony on the occasion of the
first match featuring either the hosts or the defending champions," FIFA said
in a statement.
Under the old schedule, Qatar against Ecuador was to be the official
inauguration match on the evening of November 21 but Senegal against
Netherlands would have been the first match of the day, followed England
- 'Case by case' help –
Under the new plan, the Group A game between Senegal and the Netherlands has
been shifted from 1:00pm (1000 GMT) on November 21 to 7:00pm start.
FIFA said tickets for the affected matches "will remain valid irrespective of
the new date/time."
It added: "In addition, FIFA will seek to address any issues arising from
this change in a case-by-case basis."
Qatari organisers, who have spent billions of dollars preparing for the event
since winning hosting rights in 2010, welcomed FIFA's gesture for their
"once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to host the event.
"The impact of this decision on fans was assessed by FIFA. We will work
together to ensure a smooth tournament for the supporters affected by the
change," organisers added in a statement, without giving details.
Some Ecuador fans may have to change flights to arrive in Qatar earlier and
football sources said the date switch could force changes to World Cup
Ricardo Fort, a sports industry consultant and former head of sports
marketing for Coca Cola -- a major FIFA backer -- said the date change would
be "a huge problem for sponsors".
"They invited and confirmed hospitality guests, booked flights and hotels,
and contracted with all the necessary logistics. Imagine changing it all!"
Fort wrote on Twitter.
But some companies linked to the tournament, the first World Cup in an Arab
country, expressed confidence that any disruption would be overcome.
"It is something we will deal with," said Jaime Byrom, chairman of Match
Hospitality, which has a contract with FIFA to organise hospitality packages
for World Cup matches and has locked in 450,000 tickets for the tournament.
"It is really not -- compared to the other challenges that we could have
faced or have faced in the past -- a particularly large problem," Byrom told
"In this case we will be looking at our Ecuadorian customers who are
travelling from overseas, and making sure that they are on time for the
Official countdown clocks for the event were quickly changed and 100-day
events were hastily moved from Saturday to Friday.
FIFA has already made significant accommodations to Qatar, moving the
tournament to the winter months for the first time to avoid Qatar's searing
The massive preparations have also put the spotlight on Qatar's treatment of
migrant workers and rights for LGBTQ visitors. Homosexuality is illegal,
while alcohol is severely restricted in the Muslim state.
However, Infantino has insisted it will be the "best-ever" World Cup.