Lord Coe calls for calendar clarity

Published: Monday 3rd November 2014 by The News Editor

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Lord Sebastian Coe says there must be a global conversation about the future of international sport after FIFA announced two winter options are the most likely dates for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The dates of January/February 2022 and November/December 2022 – though the former would clash with the Winter Olympics – have emerged as the most likely options after FIFA’s medical chief warned that temperatures between May and September in Qatar posed a “highly critical” risk.

European clubs and leagues had proposed playing the tournament in April/May or May/June, but that now looks out of the question and Coe admitted a winter football World Cup would have a knock-on effect for the international calendar.

Although he said he did not know whether a World Cup shift would result in the Olympic Games changing from its traditional summer date, he believes the decision will result in some serious talking in sporting circles.

“I think what we are going to have is a very clear dialogue about what the calendar looks like in the years ahead,” Coe said.

“We can’t always be saying you can’t stage it because it’s the start of the Premier League or it’s the start of the NFL in the States.

“If we are going to build global capacity then we are going to have to make sure that we have a global conversation about what that calendar looks like.”

Coe was in Qatar on Monday attending the DohaGOALS Forum 2014 when a meeting of the FIFA taskforce in Zurich put forward the two winter options.

Qatar is also in the running to stage the 2019 world athletics championship, with its capital city Doha rivalling Barcelona and Eugene in the United States, and Coe, vice-president of the IAAF, praised the Arab state’s investment in sport.

“This is certainly one of those countries that certainly understands what sport has, both commercially and nation-building and all the things that matter,” he said.

“It has invested a lot of money into infrastructure and you can’t fail to be impressed by the sporting ambiance. It is a sporting city.”

Asked whether there was a misconception why Qatar wanted to stage huge sporting events, Coe said: “It’s a big challenge (to show why) and this isn’t a specific country or a regional issue.

“The challenge everybody has is to explain to the most demanding stakeholder that any country that wants to invest in sport is why you’re doing it.

“It’s very easy to get bogged down in the project management and the only explanation you need to give people is how it’s going to be done.

“I don’t dismiss the how because putting on sporting events tests you as a city in a way few other things do.

“But we don’t always in sport explain well enough why these big events can change the lives of young people which they clearly do.

“London was a good example of how we did so. It’s never going to be perfect and appeal to everybody, but there are a lot of people in the UK who did understand what the journey was about.

“The legacy journey is the toughest journey as in a way it’s far harder than the right to stage the Games.

“The far harder bit is delivering it and the really hard bit is that 10 years after when you try to collect everything you’ve witnessed over the seven years of delivering and staging the Games.

“That for me is the definition of legacy.”

Coe insisted elite sport was not a preserve of traditional countries, saying it was necessary to take big events to unfamiliar parts of the world.

“You have to look across the piece when you make these judgements and we have to be very clear to make sure sport is global,” he said.

“I went in 1980 to Moscow and the decision was made in 1973 and everybody went, ‘hmm, I’m not sure’, but actually, looking back, I’d like to think I was part of the infancy of change.

“Big sporting events are never an inhibitor of sporting change.

“Sometimes people think taking a big sporting event somewhere is going to immediately flick the dial on public perception.

“It does, but big sporting events begin debates about things that politicians never get close to.”

Published: Monday 3rd November 2014 by The News Editor

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