It’s less than two-and-a-half years to go before the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 kicks off at Al Bayt Stadium on November 21. With the match schedule out for what is expected to be a fantastic tournament, the anticipation around the region’s first football World Cup is high.
Colin Smith, FIFA Chief Tournaments & Events Officer and FIFA World Cup Qatar LLC (Q22) Managing Director, talks about the milestone, how the schedule was developed and the next steps.
Exactly two years ago, France were crowned world champions. Today, FIFA and Qatar have unveiled the match schedule for Qatar 2022. How does it feel?
It’s hard to believe that it’s already two years since Hugo Lloris lifted this amazing trophy in Luzhniki, Moscow, after what was simply an outstanding tournament in Russia. We had great crowds, great atmosphere, all the host cities really embraced the spirit of the World Cup. And of course the performances on the pitch were second to none. So here we are, just under two and a half years to go to Qatar, on 21 November (2022) we will kick off the next World Cup, and today’s launch of the match schedule really marks a milestone along that journey.
Could you talk us through the process behind developing the match schedule?
First and foremost, the match schedule is designed around sporting criteria. As football fans, we all want the best players in the world, the best teams in the world to perform at the highest level. One of the key factors to ensure that is the amount of rest that the players get between matches. So with this match schedule, 61 out of the 64 matches, the teams have equal rest: they have three days’ rest between matches, which is optimum for sporting performance. In the round of 16, there are two matches where the teams will have two days’ rest, and then the third-place play-off match there is one team that will have two days, and one will have three days, which is not uncommon for that particular match. So for the 28 days which we have for this World Cup, which is slightly shorter than previous World Cups, this would entail a 12-day group phase and a 16-day knockout phase, with four matches a day during the group phase. In terms of process, once we look at the sporting criteria, discuss it with Qatar, we then submit it to our Organising Committee for Competitions. When they are happy with it, it goes to the FIFA Council for final approval.
Why will the group-phase matches only be assigned to kick-off times and stadiums later on?
There is a number of factors which give us this additional flexibility than we would normally have. Firstly, the compact nature of Qatar: all the stadiums are within a compact radius, meaning travel for fans and teams is obviously very easy, there are no flights to be taken, there are no long travels to be undertaken. Also the climate is perfect at that time of year in Qatar, whether it is an early kick-off or a late kick-off. So there are no technical aspects which affect this. But the assignment of matches after the draw allows us to, once the pairings are known, have a look at those, and to see whether we can provide a more beneficial kick-off time for audiences at home, for example, for their fans, or indeed for fans in Qatar with regards to the stadium allocation. It is not obviously going to work in all cases, but that additional flexibility is possible with this World Cup in Qatar.
When will the final draw be held, and how long will take it to conclude the final match assignment after the draw?
We haven’t announced the specific date for the final draw yet, but it will take place after the March window, so we are looking at the very end of March or the beginning of April, but we will announce that very soon. With regards to the assignments, we will be doing those immediately after the draw as we know the world is waiting to find out who is playing whom and in which stadium will that match be taking place.
What kind of opportunities will this match schedule offer fans from an experience point of view?
The World Cup is always a festival of football, a real celebration for the fans who come on-site and watch. In Qatar, with the compact nature, this is going to be amplified even more with 32 teams and 32 sets of supporters all in and around Doha, with Qatar fully embracing the experience of hosting the World Cup. The four matches a day during the group phase, the two matches during the round of 16 and the quarters, also provides much greater access and opportunities for fans to see not only their favourite teams but also other best teams in the world, be that in the stadium or at the FIFA Fan Fest taking place in Doha.
And when will fans be able to book their seats at Qatar 2022?
All the details on ticketing will be available on FIFA.com, so I’d encourage all fans to keep an eye on that and on our social media channels, and we will certainly keep everyone informed so they can also be part of this exciting World Cup.
Qatar 2022 – Key Facts
The tournament will take place over 28 days, kicking off on November 21, 2022, with the final being held on December 18, 2022, the Qatar National Day.
Khalifa International Stadium was inaugurated following an extensive redevelopment on May 19, 2017.
Al Janoub Stadium was inaugurated on May 16, 2019, when it hosted the Amir Cup final. Al Janoub Stadium is the first Qatar 2022 venue to be built from scratch.
Education City Stadium became the third tournament-ready venue for 2022 following a digital launch in June 2020. The stadium’s opening was dedicated to frontline workers of the coronavirus pandemic.
Two more stadiums – Al Rayyan Stadium and Al Bayt Stadium – are set to be completed this year.
Main works on the remaining three stadiums – Al Thumama Stadium, Ras Abu Aboud Stadium and Lusail Stadium – will be completed in 2021.
Team Base Camps
In addition, 21 Team Base Camps have been approved and included in the first version of the brochure presented to the teams playing the qualifiers. Qatar remains on track to deliver the remaining number of required training sites well ahead of the tournament. Each training site consists of two pitches and an ancillary building. Some of the sites have already been utilised during two major sporting events in 2019 – the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.
In 2020, the SC and FIFA launched the first-ever joint Sustainability Strategy and Policy. The policy defined five sustainability commitments according to five pillars: human, social, economic, environmental and governance.
Qatar is committed to delivering the most sustainable sporting event in history in 2022. One aspect of the plan is to deliver a carbon neutral tournament. Water conservation, waste management, carbon management, renewable energy, environmental protection, urban connectivity, biodiversity and urban ecology are just a few of the means being used in order to achieve this goal.
The SC also signed an agreement with the Gulf Organisation for Research & Development (GORD) in 2019 to support the delivery of a carbon-neutral tournament in 2022. Under the agreement, the Global Carbon Trust (GCT), part of GORD, will develop assessment standards to measure carbon reduction, work with organisations across Qatar and the region to implement carbon reduction projects, and issue carbon credits which offset emissions related to Qatar 2022.
Tournament sites are designed, constructed and operated to limit environmental impacts – in line with the requirements of the Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS). A total of nine GSAS certifications have been awarded across three stadiums to date
Tree & Turf Nursery
World class stadiums need world class turf. In line with this goal, the SC developed a nursery to grow the required turf for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and promote environmental sustainability in Qatar.
The SC Tree & Turf Nursery covers an area of 880,000m² with 16,000 trees, 679,000 shrubs and 425,000m² of turf.
The Turf Nursery is located within Aspire Zone in Doha and comprises 30,000m² of land where 12 different species of grass are being tested over a six-year period. The facilities were specially constructed by AZF and the SC and include an irrigation trial area and an on-site lab to analyse samples, with testing being conducted in collaboration with UK-based specialists Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI). The grass grown at the facility will inform the choice of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 football pitches.
The turf being grown at the nursery is unique and has been developed in Qatar specifically to withstand both the country’s climate year-round and the rigours of a tournament as competitive as the FIFA World Cup.
The 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium will be the biggest tournament venue and will host the final in 2022.
The total budget for the stadiums and training sites Qatar is constructing.
18°C to 24°C
The average temperature expected during the tournament – meaning perfect conditions for players and fans.
Al Bayt Stadium
The 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium will host the opening match of Qatar 2022.
Fans will have a variety of accommodation options, including hotels, apartments, fan villages and floating hotels (cruise ships).
Thanks to the compact nature of the tournament, fans, players and officials will only need to stay in one place throughout the tournament.
Fans will arrive at the state-of-the-art Hamad International Airport, which will have an annual capacity of 53 million by 2022. Getting around will be easy thanks to public transport, notably the new metro system, which was successfully utilised by fans during the FIFA Club World Cup in 2019.
Seven out of eight venues are either directly connected or in close proximity to a metro station, with single journey prices being QR3 ($0.82).
Following the success of the Fan ID during Russia 2018, Qatar is working on a similar solution for fans during 2022.
Nationals from a total of 80 countries can take advantage of visa-free entry into Qatar.
We’re expecting approximately 1.5 million fans to visit Qatar during the tournament.
Qatar benefits from a low crime rate and is consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world. Qatar is working with international experts such as INTERPOL, the Council of Europe, the UK Home Office, FBI, French Gendarmerie and other partners to ensure the safety and security of visitors in 2022.
Hamad International Airport is a major transport hub and a vital link between the Americas, Europe and Asia. The extensive Qatar Airways network means passengers can fly directly to Doha from more than 160 destinations.
More than three billion fans across Asia and Europe will benefit from prime time viewing during the tournament thanks to convenient kick-off times.
The health and well-being of our workers is our top priority. There are currently about 18,700 workers on Qatar’s FIFA World Cup sites.
The SC’s Worker Welfare Standards cover ethical recruitment, accommodation and working conditions. Regular audits support compliance, while contractors in breach of the standards are subject to enforcement measures, including contract termination and blacklisting.
The SC has implemented a vast range of reforms to benefit workers, including regular site inspections and audits, the implementation of forums to allow grievances to be heard and rectified – plus a number of innovative projects related to nutrition, well-being and health and safety. In addition, the SC has worked with contractors to repay more than $30.4 million to workers who were forced to pay illegal recruitment fees in their home countries – irrespective of whether there is a paper trail or not.
Football in Qatar
n Qatar are the reigning champions of Asia after winning the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Qatar beat 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers Saudi Arabia, the Korea Republic and Japan on route to winning the tournament in the UAE.
n Other honours for the national team include the gold medal at the 2006 Asian Games, three Arabian Gulf Cup titles and one West Asian Football Federation championship.
n Qatar also took part in the 2019 Copa America in Brazil, and will take part in the next edition – to be held in Colombia and Argentina in 2021.
n Qatar finished as runners-up in the 1981 FIFA World Youth Championship and reached the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games in 1992. More recently, Qatar finished third at the 2018 U23 AFC Asian Cup and won the 2014 U19 AFC Asian Cup. Qatar also qualified for the 2019 FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland.
n The 12-team Qatar Stars League is the top professional league in Qatar. World Cup winner Xavi Hernandez currently coaches reigning champions Al Sadd after captaining the team for three seasons. Former Barcelona star Samuel Eto’o and Dutch legend Wesley Sneijder also played in the league last season.
n Qatari side Al Sadd has won the AFC Champions League twice, in 1989 and 2011.
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