Last month, France claimed its second World Cup since its inception by defeating the fairytale story of the tournament, Croatia, 4-2 in an action-packed final. The match was filled with drama, with an own-goal, pitch invaders and heavy rain, but the outstanding display of sporting brilliance shone through.
This year’s tournament, the 21st overall, was held in Russia between 14 June and 15 July. With 32 competing teams qualifying for the tournament, there were 64 total matches played across 11 host cities throughout the month. However, although the World Cup manages to captivate nations around the globe and brings countries to a standstill, what practical effect does this competition have on other soccer leagues and sporting codes internationally?
As both France and Croatia were going through final preparations for arguably the biggest sporting clash in their respective histories, Novak Djokovic and Kevin Anderson were facing each other across the net in the Wimbledon Men’s Final. Whilst this scheduling clash was initially not considered an issue when the draw for Wimbledon was completed, it very nearly became a calamity for event organisers when England progressed through the World Cup to reach their first semi-final since 1990.
Although England making the World Cup Final could have led to disastrous fan attendance and television ratings for the Men’s Final, Wimbledon Chief Executive Officer Richard Lewis declined to reschedule the match. Ultimately, only England’s defeat to Croatia in the semi-final prevented a nightmare of a fixturing clash.
Whilst Wimbledon organisers refused to change the timing of their Men’s Final, the Tour de France was slightly more accommodating, as officials delayed the beginning of the event to mitigate the clash with the World Cup for fear of receiving less media coverage.
As expected, the scheduling of the World Cup proves more challenging for the professional soccer leagues around the world. For example, the MLS in the United States was forced to take a mid-season hiatus to accommodate for the tournament – although, due to the USA’s failure to qualify for the tournament, they returned for play a week earlier than for the previous World Cup.
For the next edition of the tournament, to be held in 2022 in Qatar, it has been announced that it will be held from November through December to accommodate for the extreme heat conditions expected in the Arabian summer. Many European leagues have already voiced their concerns regarding this fixturing, with an English Premier League spokesman stating that a World Cup held during a northern hemisphere winter “is neither workable nor desirable for European domestic football.”
Whilst the World Cup is arguably the world’s largest and most renowned sporting event alongside the Olympics, it provides a great challenge internationally in terms of scheduling for other sporting events and competitions.
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This article has been prepared with assistance from Graduate Lawyer, Alex Gulli