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How Will The 2022 World Cup Impact The Premier League?

Fixture congestion is already tricky, but Qatar’s event forces a six-week blackout in the Premier League that could dramatically affect England’s top flight    

By Andrew Woodin
Locals paint flags of World Cup teams at the Maharaja Cluster Cemara Housing

Not one second of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar has been played, and yet, footy’s biggest stage is poised to cause massive disruptions across the Premier League landscape.

Commencing on Sunday Nov 20, the World Cup in Qatar is undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated sporting events of the season, but due to how executives from all 20 Premier League clubs decided this past summer to carve up the schedule in order to accommodate the prestigious tournament’s winter run, EPL clubs are bracing for its imminent ripple effects. The event that’s already created a congested EPL schedule this year means that Premier League play comes to an abrupt and screeching halt Nov. 13 and won’t resume until Boxing Day on Dec. 26. At the start of the hiatus, players will have only one week of preparations with their national squads before jetting out to the tournament. Once games begin, a compressed tournament schedule will see the Round of 16 run December 3-6, quarterfinals on Dec. 9 and 10, semis on Dec. 13 and 14 and the World Cup final on Dec. 18.  With such a whirlwind of a schedule, World Cup players who reach the final will barely have time to recover before league play picks back up the day after Christmas.

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While some Premier League clubs only have one or two players participating in the World Cup, multiple clubs jockeying for position at the top of the the EPL standings will see several players head to Qatar. Chelsea has 12 players set to play in the tournament, including Christian Pulisic for the U.S., Thiago Silva for Brazil and Mason Mount, Conor Gallagher and Raheem Sterling suiting up for England. Manchester City adds a whopping 16 of its players to the tournament, with notables such as Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Kalvin Phillips, Kyle Walker and John Stones all repping His Majesty’s kingdom. Manchester United has 12 players gearing up for the tournament, including stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandez and Dioga Dalot all playing for Portugal. Arsenal has nine players in the World Cup, and Liverpool has seven.

All of the scheduling headaches that went into Premier League clubs planning for the World Cup means that its players will be forced to deal with a considerable uptick in the grueling physical demands they inflict upon their bodies. Players have already weathered a taxing season that began a week earlier than normal, so the risk of injury in the upcoming tournament is looming. Add Qatar’s hot climate into the mix, and that could spell disaster for Premier League clubs after the season restarts.

“I think the risk [of injury] is higher as is the risk of fatigue over the next four weeks and that players might not be available when the biggest matches are played,” Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, general secretary for the international player’s union, Fifpro, said, according to The Guardian. “I think the probability of that is certainly higher [than in other World Cups]… But the bigger picture increases the probability of injury and increases the probability of fatigue-limiting performance. That is what the science says.”

If a club like Liverpool sees an injury to one of its star players – for example, Darwin Nunez who’s playing for Uruguay – that would immediately extinguish any hopes the Reds have at breaking through to make a run for the title. Conversely, clubs with few players in the Qatar-based tournament have an intrinsic advantage when it comes to resting players or rehabbing players’ injuries.

Some EPL squads have a different leg up on the competition. For example, Norway failing to punch a ticket to Qatar means that Erling Haaland will be fresh as a daisy come Boxing Day, allowing Pep Guardiola to get some much-needed sleep himself. To keep players in form, other teams like Chelsea will host a warm weather training camp in Abu Dhabi along with the possibility of a friendly match there while in town.

The winter World Cup schedule will also take some time for fans to adapt. Usually played in the summer, the tournament’s schedule will also compete with major American sports leagues such as the NBA, NHL and the NFL, which will be ramping up into its busiest schedule with several crucial games that determine that league’s playoffs. Thus, the integration of the World Cup could create a viewership issue for broadcast networks and streamers who rely on audience numbers from those other professional sports.

In the end, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is an experiment for us all, but if its bizarre winter schedule is ultimately successful, then it will be huge win for both fan and player alike.

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