While no one knows the effects, short- or long-term, that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on daily life, football, or society as a whole, one thing we can probably all agree on is that everything will be different, and in many ways, perhaps quite a bit so.
Will things be better? Worse? That remains to be seen. But a time of great upheaval can also be the time for great change. Maybe we can all be nicer to each going forward. Maybe we can better support our healthcare services. Maybe we can allow for employees to work from home more often and provide better sick leave. Maybe we can move the football calendar.
Wait, what was that last one?
Move the football calendar?
If FIFA vice-president (and CONCACAF president) Victor Montagliani has his way, we could see the sport’s highest governing body push for a permanent shifting of the football calendar, to better align with the calendar year, leagues that already play winter-to-winter schedules (rather than summer-to-summer), and the 2022 World Cup, which is currently still scheduled for November-December.
“We have the opportunity because the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 will be played in November/December and that could be the idea.
“Here in the Americas, the season is already played according to the calendar year, perhaps it is a solution that could also be used in Europe and Africa, it is a possibility to be discussed at national and continental level.
“It is not an idea to be discarded, it can be a solution in view of the next two years and this winter World Cup.”
Montagliani, who’s apparently a “close ally” of FIFA president Gianni Infantino, talks about this in the context of the next two years, but if the calendar were to shift, it would not be easy to shift it back again. The FAWSL recently did that by playing a brief “spring league” between the end of the 2016 season and the start of the 2017-18 season, but that’s probably not as feasible on a large, Europe-wide scale.
That said, with the real possibility of further delays being introduced thanks to the pandemic, not to mention FIFA’s baffling decision to give the World Cup to Qatar and move it to the winter, this may be an opportunity to rethink some of the baseline assumptions in the modern game — including the overloaded calendar. While FIFA do not have the power to set when a league runs, they do provide guidance that’s expected to be followed.
“We had already started thinking about how to set a new calendar from 2024, now with this crisis we need immediate answers.”
-Victor Montagliani; source: Radio Sportiva via Telegraph
Would pushing the start of next season to early 2021 be a possible compromise? Would this lead to a potential widening of the gap between club football and international football? Will the pandemic change everything we know about football?
Stranger things have happened.