The eight stadiums constructed to host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar would almost squeeze within the boundaries of Greater London.
On the face of it, one environmental advantage of the Qatar World Cup compared to previous tournaments are the short hops between stadiums, which negates the need for air travel once the first whistle blows on November 21.
But even so, a scathing new report has raised concerns over the pledge from FIFA and Qatar to deliver the first-ever carbon-neutral World Cup.
The Al Janoub Stadium in Qatar (pictured), is one of seven new builds, inspired by the sails of the dhow boats traditional to the country in a nod to the coastal city’s maritime heritage
A map of the eight World Cup 2022 venues – all of them are separated by just 55km or 34 miles
Once teams and fans arrive in Qatar, there will be no need for internal flights to matches
At Russia 2018, more than 1,000 miles separated the host cities of Saint Petersburg in the north and Krasnodar in the south, so fans, media, support staff and teams had to criss-cross the country by air, pumping out carbon dioxide as they went.
This time around, the biggest distance between two stadiums in the desert state is 34 miles as the crow flies; the smallest is just four miles.
Furthermore, a newly constructed Metro system connects five of the stadia and a fleet of dedicated electric buses will ferry fans to the other three. Meanwhile, teams can pick a base and stay there for the duration.
In fact, imposing a map of the newly built stadia in Qatar onto south-east England reveals the greatest distance fans or teams will have to travel this time is the equivalent of Hatfield to Sevenoaks from north to south and Kingston-upon-Thames to Greenwich from east to west.
While awarding the World Cup to Qatar has been extremely controversial, and led to persistent claims of human rights abuses during the construction of stadia and infrastructure, FIFA and the Qatari authorities have sought to make a virtue of the its environmental credentials, based in part on the compact nature of the competition.
FIFA says it has ‘committed to staging a fully carbon-neutral World Cup’ for the first time.
The 2022 Qatar World Cup is six months away with the tournament’s kick-off on November 21
The eight World Cup stadiums of Qatar would almost squeeze inside the boundaries of Greater London, which has prompted debate about the environmental credentials of the competition on the social networking site, Reddit
But despite the limited travel required to watch the matches, campaigners have issued a fresh warning over the environmental impact of the competition.
In a hard-hitting report, FIFA and the Qatar Supreme Committee, which is organising the tournament, have been accused of ‘misleading’ supporters by claiming it will be carbon-neutral.
A damaging report from the environmental lobby group Carbon Market Watch, which has worked with the European Union among other international bodies to monitor carbon emissions, has questioned the credibility of FIFA’s claims, with six months to go to the opening game.
‘It would be great to see the climate impact of FIFA World Cups being drastically reduced. But the carbon-neutrality claim that is being made is simply not credible,’ said Carbon Market Watch’s Gilles Dufrasne, the author of the report.
‘Despite a lack of transparency, the evidence suggests that the emissions from this World Cup will be considerably higher than expected by the organisers, and the carbon credits being purchased to offset these emissions are unlikely to have a sufficiently positive impact on the climate.’
The World Cup final, and other key fixtures, will be played at the Lusail Stadium, given it can host the most fans. After the tournament it will become a community and education hub
FIFA estimates the World Cup will produce 3.6million tonnes of carbon dioxide, more than the 2.1million tonnes produced in Russia in 2018, and greater than 71 countries around the globe.
Some of the advantages of having stadiums in such close proximity in Qatar may end up being lost as fan groups fear not all of the visiting supporters will find accommodation.
More than one million visitors are expected in the Middle Eastern country, with only 130,000 hotel rooms planned for.
Neighbouring countries are already preparing to host fans, who would have to fly in for matches at considerable financial and environmental cost.
Most of the seats at the Lusail Stadium will be donated to developing countries as the city ‘will not need its own football stadium’ after 2022
However, CMW’s concerns are based on how FIFA and Qatar are measuring carbon emissions and offsetting them.
They are particularly critical of the construction – and reuse – of the stadia, which have mostly been built from scratch in the desert.
Of the eight stadiums, which will host the 32-nation competition, seven are brand new and an eighth, the Khalifa Stadium, significantly rebuilt for the World Cup, which begins on November 21.
CMW say this has had a huge impact in terms of carbon emissions, but the tournament organisers are only counting a small proportion of that in their calculations.
‘The number of days of the tournament were divided by the estimated lifetime of the stadiums to arrive at the share of the total emissions associated with the construction of these facilities attributed to the World Cup,’ says CMW.
The Al Janoub stadium became the first Qatar World Cup venue to be unveiled ahead of the tournament. Its capacity will be reduced from 40,000 to 20,000 after the competition
As a result, the body concludes FIFA’s carbon-neutrality claims are ‘far-fetched ‘.
CMW point out that the stadiums have been constructed specifically for the World Cup and the capital of Qatar, Doha, had only one major stadium prior to hosting the tournament.
‘Future use of so many stadiums in such a small geographical space is uncertain,’ states the report.
Qatar is a very small state. The country’s population is just 2.9million people, of whom more than 2.5m are immigrant workers, and in terms of area, it is about half the size of Wales.
In football terms, the country supports the Qatar Stars League, which is a competition of 12 teams in the top tier. The most successful side, Al-Sadd, nicknamed The Boss, attracts an average home attendance in Doha of just 1,500.
The next highest attendance is at their rivals, Al-Rayyan, who attracted 708 supporters on average in 2020, according to the FootballCritic website.
Qatari football club Al-Sadd’s Spanish coach Xavi Hernandez (pictured left) celebrates a goal during a Qatar Stars League match against Al-Duhail – Qatari football attracts very few fans
Ahmad Bin Ali
WORLD CUP CAPACITY
POST WORLD CUP
0 (community hub)
So, the appetite for the beautiful game in Qatar does not appear to justify a legacy of football stadiums with a combined capacity of more than 150,000 – and that is after they have been scaled down following the tournament.
In addition, CMW says the way in which carbon emissions are being offset is also ‘questionable’.
‘A new standard was created especially for the tournament, raising questions about the credibility and independence of this certification scheme,’ the report states.
‘Currently registered projects are highly unlikely to generate credits that will effectively counterbalance the tournament’s emissions. Such low-quality credits will not make the World Cup ‘carbon-neutral’.’
One of the larger stadiums, the Al Bayt, will stage matches right through to the semi-finals of the competition. It has a capacity of 60,000, which will be cut to 32,000 after the World Cup
In addition, schemes that will see trees and grass planted in the desert are dismissed as ‘not credible’.
The Qatari authorities have said they will reduce the size of some stadiums following the tournament, but six facilities will remain with capacities ranging from 20,000 to 45,000.
The largest will be the Khalifa Stadium, while five will have around half their seats – 170,000 – removed.
The flagship, Lusail Stadium, will be decommissioned and become a hub for community and education services and Stadium 974, which is constructed of shipping containers, will be completely dismantled.
‘Qatar’s proposal is to donate demountable grandstand seats to countries in need of sporting infrastructure, thereby supporting the creation of a strong legacy of football development,’ the organisers say on their website.
The Ahmad bin Ali Stadium will host games up until the quarter-final stage and is intended to be a reflection of Qatari culture. Its 40,000 capacity will subsequently be reduced to 20,000
‘The Supreme Committee believes this proposal will ensure that Qatar is left with stadiums fit for purpose beyond 2022. We plan to have no so-called ‘white elephants’.’
The Supreme Committee and FIFA have strongly disputed CMW’s assessment of the World Cup’s carbon-neutrality claims and measures to limit and offset emissions.
‘It is speculative and inaccurate to draw conclusions on the SC’s commitment to deliver the world’s first carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup,’ a spokesperson for the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy told Sportsmail.
Stadium 974 has been made from 974 shipping containers and other materials. It will be dismantled post-tournament
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