Covering the vote in Zurich, but for a newspaper in the Gulf, was a revelation. They were far more interested in Qatar’s historic success in capturing the 2022 World Cup than in English anger at losing out for 2018. Plenty of people questioned the practicalities of 2022 then and those doubts have grown. Here, in a guest article, the University of Bedfordshire reports a distinguished academic and former FA official’s view that the only way England cpould properly compete in the Qatari summer of 2022 would be if the Premier and, if necessary, Football League programmes were cut short. Here, the professor in question, John Brewer, also answers some supplementary questions which will appear at the foot of the main article, whose authorship can safely be said to reside within the university’s press office …
Premier League and Football League 2022 programmes will have to be cut short, and England would need to travel to Qatar at least a month in advance, if they are to stand any chance of success at the World Cup, according to leading sports science experts.
Professor John Brewer, who is director of sport and enterprise at the University of Bedfordshire and head of it sports science department, says that studies show a summer tournament in Qatar will only be possible with the right preparation.
“Physical performance and decision-making will be impaired in hot conditions,” said Prof Brewer, a former Head of Sport Science at the Football Association, who was also a member of England’s backroom staff at the 1990 World Cup.
“The research we have done in our environmental chamber has involved simulating the demands of football matches in environments that come close to replicating conditions in Qatar.
“The results are unsurprising; but we’ve also found that players’ bodies could adapt to the extreme conditions if the squad arrives in Qatar early enough.
“In order for this to happen, the FA would need to look at the fixture calendar, in conjunction with the Premier League, to ensure players can finish the domestic season in very good time. England then need to meet up as a team and travel to Qatar at least four weeks in advance to acclimatise to the temperature and play some preparation games.”
To complement the acclimatisation process, Prof Brewer believes England would need to develop a slower and more intricate style of play, similar to that of Spain.
“The high-tempo game we see in the Premier League on a regular basis may not be the type of football that can be sustained for 90 minutes or extra-time and penalties in a World Cup,” he said.
“If you like to see a style of play that sees the ball being passed around at a lower-tempo, then I think that’s what we’ll see in Qatar.
“England will need to modify their tactics as countries used to playing at a low-tempo in hot conditions will hold an advantage.”
AND NOW TO MONSIEUR SALUT’S FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS:
Q: The article states what would need to happen but not whether you, Prof Brewer, believes it should happen. Do you favour making the necessary adjustments, in the Premier and presumably many or most other top national leagues, to allow the Qatar World Cup to go ahead and be meaningful?
A: “I absolutely favour the need to acclimatise – so yes we should finish early”
Q: Do you believe the dates should be switched to the winter, again disrupting the leagues, or do you favour reconsideration of the decision to make Qatar the venue?
A: All the evidence suggests that with acclimatisation, the proposed hydration and playing strategies and air conditioning proposals in place, it should be possible to play in the summer. If Qatar can assure these conditions, it should be fine. If they can’t assure this, there may have to be a rethink.
Q: Or should we compete as best we can without disrupting either the Premier season or the normal World Cup timetable?
We will struggle if the team don’t have at least 3 -4 weeks to acclimatise
I have posed one final question: “Does ending the season short mean fitting in more midweek games earlier or reducing the number of fixtures? If the latter, how?”
The reply will be added here when it comes. In the meantime, the Salut! Sunderland jury is invited to deliver its own verdict …
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