Will Reform at FIFA Shrink the World Cup’s Environmental Footprint?

Cleat with no traction
Environmental priorities need better traction at FIFA (credit: Dan Klotz).

Pretty soon now, environmentalists won’t have Sepp Blatter to kick around anymore. But, surprisingly, they never really did.

Blatter resigned last week as President of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), the organization that runs the World Cup, the Women’s World Cup, the football (soccer) tournament at the Summer Olympics, and other international competitions. His announced departure came as a result of transnational corruption inquiries that stem from the bidding of the World Cup in 1998, 2010, 2014, 2018, and 2022.

And while the bidding for the 2006 Cup is not being investigated, allegations that the German government provided a shipment of rocket-propelled grenades to Saudi Arabia in return for the deciding vote now puts that process into question as well.

The competition for the honor and prestige of hosting a World Cup has long been questioned for its ethics, but it wasn’t until FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar that the questions turned into a feverish outcry. No logical and fair process, critics said, could award an outdoor sporting event played on fields of grass—not artificial turf—to a desert country that routinely experiences 120°F temperatures at the time of year that the event is held.

Qatar’s winning bid included the construction of 12 new stadiums, including the one where the finals will be played—in a city that doesn’t even exist yet. While the number of stadiums may be lowered to 10, the event may move to the winter (conflicting, however, with the European club season), and the stadiums may not be air-conditioned, it is a sure bet that the 2022 World Cup will be an environmental disaster.

At a time when the world is increasingly troubled by global warming and arguing over how to reduce environmental impacts, the ability —> Read More