Qatar 2022

The Qatar Football Association (QFA) and FIFA have announced that the Gulf state will host a pan-Arab tournament next year which will act as a key test event for its staging of the 2022 World Cup.

The competition proposal was presented to FIFA Council members via videoconference by Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) and chairman of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC (Q22). The formation of the competition was approved at yesterday’s (Thursday’s) FIFA meeting.

The 22-team invitational tournament for men’s national teams will be contested by Arab nations from Africa and Asia. It will be played outside the International Match Calendar from December 1-18, 2021 and will be delivered by Q22, enabling organisers to use facilities and run operations that are also planned for the World Cup.

The tournament will take place during the same timeslot as the World Cup, with the final taking place exactly one year before the Qatar 2022 final is scheduled to kick-off. All tournament matches will be played at Qatar 2022 stadia.

Earlier this month, Education City Stadium (pictured), the third venue completed for the World Cup, was officially inaugurated, but it is yet to host a match. It joined the redeveloped Khalifa International Stadium and the new Al Janoub Stadium as completed World Cup venues.

President of the QFA, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmad Al Thani, said: “This new pan-Arab tournament will see teams from across the region go head-to-head in state-of-the-art FIFA World Cup venues and allow teams and fans to experience Qatar as a tournament host country. This tournament marks an important footballing milestone for the country and the region, and everyone involved in delivering it will gain more essential experience ahead of the Qatar World Cup.”

Al Thawadi added: “This exciting tournament will act as a perfect preparatory event for Qatar ahead of the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world. Qatar has hosted many events since it was awarded the World Cup hosting rights back in 2010, but this will be our biggest yet and it will prove essential in utilising facilities and services ahead of 2022.

“The tournament is also being held at exactly the same time as the World Cup, meaning fans, players and officials will get a taste of what’s to come in 2022. The creation of this pan-Arab tournament reinforces our longstanding commitment that the FIFA World Cup 2022 will be a tournament that benefits the entire Arab world, one that showcases the beauty of the region and the immense passion that exists for the game.”

Full details of tournament participants, along with the match schedule, will be shared in due course. The delivery of the event will be led by Q22 staff, supported by the QFA, FIFA and the SC.

Campeonato Brasileiro Série A

The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) has announced that it plans to start the 2020 Campeonato Brasileiro Série A season on August 9, despite concerns from health experts that COVID-19 could be peaking in the country at that time.

More than 55,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Brazil and around 1.2 million have been infected, making the country second only to the United States. However, President Jair Bolsonaro and leading Rio de Janeiro club Flamengo have been lobbying for the return of football, with the CBF yesterday staging a meeting with the 40 clubs in its top two divisions.

The 2020 Série A season was due to start in May, but football has made a partial return with Campeonato Carioca, the state championship of Rio de Janeiro, resuming last week.

The CBF said in a statement: “The return of football depends on authorisation from health authorities. However, 19 of the 20 Série A clubs were willing to play outside their cities, if ultimately their municipalities are not yet cleared by health authorities to play games. This was a sign of support for the competition for CBF.”

Kentucky Derby

Churchill Downs racecourse has announced that the postponed 146th running of the Kentucky Derby will be staged with spectators, under strict guidelines.

Kentucky Derby Week will be held September 1-5 with the Oaks on September 4 and the Derby on the following day. The events annually attract more than 100,000 horse racing fans, but it had been unclear whether spectators would be allowed due to COVID-19.

Churchill Downs celebrated the first Saturday in May, the traditional date of the Kentucky Derby, by hosting a day-long at-home party to raise $2m (£1.61m/€1.78m) for COVID-19 emergency relief efforts.

The 146th Kentucky Derby was postponed from May 2 until September 5 due to the pandemic. The new date marks the first time in 75 years that the classic will not be run on the first Saturday in May.

After consulting with Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and local health officials, Churchill Downs will stage this year’s event with reduced capacity in general admission, outdoor reserved seating, premium dining and suites. Fans will be “consistently and frequently” encouraged to wear masks at all times unless seated, to practice social distancing when possible and to wash or sanitise hands frequently.

Churchill Downs president Kevin Flanery said: “Our team is deeply committed to holding the very best Kentucky Derby ever, and we will take all necessary steps to protect the health and safety of all who attend and participate in the Derby.

“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have established a comprehensive set of operating procedures, which include a multitude of precautionary measures to be followed while fans are in attendance at our facility. We are determined to keep our customers, employees and communities as safe as we responsibly can.”

Davis Cup/Fed Cup

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has today announced that the 2020 Davis Cup and Fed Cup Finals have been postponed to next year due to COVID-19.

This year’s Davis Cup Finals will remain in Madrid, but will now take place in the week commencing November 22, 2021, instead of November 23-29 this year.

The ITF said the decision to postpone the event comes following a three-month review of the considerable logistical and regulatory challenges that have arisen as a result of the pandemic and all potential hosting scenarios with the health and safety of all involved of paramount importance.

The Finals were due to host more than 90 athletes with significant support teams, as well as thousands of fans, officials, staff, partners and other stakeholders travelling from countries across the world, each at a different stage in dealing with the pandemic. The ITF said the challenges in hosting a mass gathering of this size on an international scale at an indoor venue are considerable due to the pandemic, both in the current and the anticipated climate.

Gerard Pique, president of the ITF’s partner for the Davis Cup, Kosmos Tennis, said: “We don’t know how the situation will develop in each qualified nation, or if restrictions in Spain will remain sufficiently eased, as such it is impossible to predict the situation in November and guarantee the safety of those travelling to Madrid. This postponement has no long-term bearing on our collective ambitions for the Davis Cup. The ITF and Kosmos Tennis look forward to delivering an outstanding competition in 2021, when it is safe and feasible to do so.”

Meanwhile, the Finals of the largest annual team competition in women’s sport will continue to be played on indoor clay courts at the Laszlo Papp Arena in Budapest, Hungary. They have been rescheduled for April 13-18, 2021.

Due to the ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic, the ITF said it has not been possible to reschedule the postponed Finals in 2020. In addition to the Laszlo Papp Arena being unavailable over the latter part of the year, the Federation said there remains “significant logistical and regulatory challenges” that mean hosting an indoor mass gathering while guaranteeing the health and safety of all involved will not be feasible.

The ITF said hosting the competition without fans was not considered a desirable option, given the “unique atmosphere” created by national supporters.

David Haggerty, ITF president, added: “Earlier this year, we took the difficult but necessary decision to postpone the first edition of the new-look Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Finals in Budapest due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is regrettable that the Finals will not be able to take place this year, we are confident that we will be able to host a superb event in Budapest in April 2021.

“In these extraordinary times, we believe that the best way forward in order both to protect the health and safety of all involved and to best respect the integrity of the competition is to extend this year’s Fed Cup into 2021, with the event returning to an annual basis the following year.”

Image: Qatar 2022