Daily Archives: 04/10/2013

Sepp Blatter “Seeks More Time” Over Qatar World Cup ’22 Details – by Rob Atkinson

Sepp Blatter wondering whether a brewery is a good place for a piss-up, yesterday

Sepp Blatter wondering whether a brewery is a good place for a piss-up, yesterday

FIFA has confirmed that the 2022 World Cup Finals tournament will take place in Qatar after all.  There will however be no final decision on the actual timing of the tournament until after the 2014 tournament in Brazil. A well-funded, well-fed and self-important FIFA Commission, possibly including vocal opponents of a winter World Cup, has been planned “to carry out very deep consultations and investigations and show some diplomacy and wisdom” a FIFA spokesperson stated, with a commendably straight face.

The latest decisions and non-decisions have been made in spite of shock information that has slowly seeped into the heads of FIFA President Sepp Blatter and other officials since December 2010 when the event was originally awarded to the middle-eastern oil state, which has been ruled absolutely by the Al Thani family since the mid-1800s.  These shattering revelations include the news that;

  • Qatar gets quite warm in the summertime;
  • Alternative times of the year, whilst cooler (merely “bloody hot” as opposed to “blood-boilingly impossible, even for a camel“), are inconveniently taken up with league programmes in the world’s major football-playing countries;
  • Migrant workers are routinely having their rights abused;
  • There have been instances of deaths on World Cup-related construction sites.

Mr Blatter has stated that he has “sympathy and regret for anything that happens in any country where there are deaths on construction sites, especially when they are related to a World Cup.”  But he feels that such considerations must not be allowed to get in the way of his vision for football. “The Fifa World Cup 2022 will be played in Qatar. There you have it.”

Such an autocratic approach has been welcomed by the authorities in Qatar itself, where this is pretty much how they run things all the time.  The state is ruled absolutely by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani who seized power in 1995.  Corporal and capital punishment continue to be practised, and several elements of the Western way of life are severely proscribed, including sexual orientation and freedom of expression.  A Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami, also known as Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb was handed a life sentence, apparently simply for words he has uttered or written.  FIFA have either been aware of all of these factors at all relevant times since 2010, or have become aware of them since – but there is no indication that their decision has been in any way affected, beyond Mr Blatter’s “regrets”.

The area of labour is similarly fraught.  Many cases of ill-treatment of immigrant labour have been observed. Qatar does not maintain wage standards for its immigrant labour. Under the provisions of Qatar’s sponsorship law, sponsors have the unilateral power to cancel workers’ residency permits, deny workers’ ability to change employers, report a worker as “absconded” to police authorities, and deny permission to leave the country. As a result, sponsors may restrict workers’ movements and workers may be afraid to report abuses or claim their rights.  It’s a system thought to be much-admired by some Cabinet Members in the UK’s coalition government, though nobody has been available to comment upon this.

One fact that may well have had some bearing on the FIFA stance is that Qatar has proven reserves of oil and natural gas, putting the state at the top of Forbes’ list of the world’s richest countries.

FIFA: “Putting money and commercial opportunism ahead of liberty and human rights since 1904”

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Leeds United: Mixed Messages and Fading Ambition. What IS Going on at Elland Road? – by Rob Atkinson

a shirt

These are strange days at Leeds United.  The football club is well-managed; by common consent we have the right man in Brian McDermott.  The people that matter certainly think so, for the most part. Let’s all hope the Board still agree.

We have a half-decent team and lately the emergence of another highly promising youngster in Alex Mowatt has been a real boost, offering the possibility of allowing Ross McCormack to play as a striker where he’s most comfortable.  More on that later.

We even have a personable and likeable chairman in Salah Nooruddin, who has lately been trying to issue comforting noises about investment and the further enhancement of the squad.  Salah has a couple of very important things going for him: he has a nice, friendly smile – and he’s Not Ken Bates.  This latter one really sums up his appeal for most Leeds fans after the last few years – but does Mr. Nooruddin have more positive attributes to offer even than the quality of Not Being Ken?

Well, we can but hope so.  But when he’s been a bit more vocal, as lately – coinciding with a run of four defeats – Salah’s tended to send out some pretty mixed messages. That’s worrying enough in a businessman/banker type who should really worship at the twin altars of “Inspiring Confidence in the Marketplace” and a “Having a Strategic Plan”.

The trouble is, Salah’s got recent form for appearing to heap pressure on the manager after a couple of losses – tweeting that the “existing squad” should be winning – and now he’s been and gone and said that promotion would be “a very harsh target” for this season, which some have read as a hasty attempt to take that perceived pressure back off.

All well and good, but this papering over the cracks approach just leads to more trouble, because those who are paying through the nose do want a definite idea of where the club is heading; so when people blow hot and cold like this – well, it’s disconcerting…

Any football club’s fans surely want to believe that their hard-earned cash is being used to fuel ambition, Leeds fans perhaps more than most.  So what do they think – what do WE think – when the chairman states that we can pretty much forget about promotion for the time being?  What message does it send out to the existing squad?  To potential signings who may, even now, be weighing up the club’s potential and – that word again – ambition? It’s all quite perplexing to us mere turnstile fodder – so how does it appear to a professional making a hard-nosed decision about which shop window he wishes to be displayed in as a result of any move on loan?

As I’ve said elsewhere, it might be that bit less confusing if the football people spoke on football matters, and the businessmen dealt with business.  When Nooruddin says that “promotion is a harsh target”, is he speaking from a business or a football point of view? If the former, then all well and good – get on with sorting out that investment “to take us to the next level”, which is allegedly so close.  If he’s speaking from a football point of view though, the only possible question is “Why?”  He’s not remotely qualified, after all.

If Brian McDermott feels that promotion may be a harsh target, then presumably he’s saying that in the full knowledge of exactly how much he has to play with in the transfer market.  Presumably also, he’s some idea of when any further investment might reasonably be expected.  Brian is taking his time in the market, having apparently been mandated to recruit loanees – but again, that may be because other options have presented themselves from within the club.  Ross McCormack played up front the other night and he’s been vocal since in saying that’s where he’s best deployed.  If McDermott feels he can now do that because of the emergence of young midfield prodigies from the Academy, then fine.  It would be nice to know these things, and from the horse’s mouth. We’ll listen to a football man talk football all day long.

But that’s the point – let people work to their strengths.  Let Nooruddin and Co seek to improve the financial infrastructure.  Let Brian get on with managing the team and making pronouncements about their prospects based on his professional knowledge.  Let RossCo get on with scoring some goals instead of trying to be something he’s not.  Let all that happen – and maybe the messages wouldn’t be as mixed; maybe we wouldn’t now be all a-twitter – and we ARE, many of us – about what seems like a club about to give up on the season.  That is such a terrible message to send out when people are having to scrimp and save for expensive tickets, travel, programmes and all the related shelling-out that goes on each match-day.

It’s just been such a mess in the media this week, and the win over Bournemouth has almost disappeared in the middle of it.  It shouldn’t have to be this way.  These people are professionals, all of them.  The least they can do is to try and sing from the same hymn-sheet (with due respect to the representatives of different religions involved).  But you get my meaning.  Let’s have a unified message, something we can all understand.  “We are Leeds” would be a good start.  “Onwards and upwards” is encouraging too.  But it all needs to be underpinned by the best rallying-call of all.

Marching on Together“.

Come on, Leeds!