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100-day World Cup countdown interrupted by the date change
This past Friday marked the beginning of the official 100-day countdown to the World Cup, and on that day, FIFA and Qatari organisers calculated how much it would cost to move the start date up by one day. Football’s governing body and the wealthy Gulf state that announced late Thursday night promised relief for affected fans, sponsors, and broadcasters but provided no details.
Qatar and Ecuador’s match was moved ahead by 24 hours and made an excellent opening match for PR reasons alone. The conservative host country is already being criticised for its human rights record, and supporters aren’t sure what to expect.
“It is less than three months from the start. This has come out of the blue. It is not critical but it is a headache,” said an executive for one World Cup broadcaster, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The change ensures the continuity of a long-standing tradition of marking the start of the World Cup with an opening ceremony on the occasion of the first match featuring either the hosts or the defending champions,” FIFA said in a statement.
“The impact of this decision on fans was assessed by FIFA. We will work together to ensure a smooth tournament for the supporters affected by the change,” organisers added in a statement, without giving details.
“It is something we will deal with,” said Jaime Byrom, chairman of Match Hospitality, which has a contract with FIFA to organise hospitality packages for World Cup matches and has locked in 450,000 tickets for the tournament.
“It is really not — compared to the other challenges that we could have faced or have faced in the past — a particularly large problem,” Byrom told AFP.