EXCLUSIVE: FIFA SCRAPS plans to stage lengthy ceremonies before EVERY World Cup match following widespread criticism of the tournament’s lavish 30-minute opening show
- The opening ceremony took place at the Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday evening
- The Spectacle was widely criticised in Europe for hypocrisy and tokenism
- FIFA planned and rehearsed similar ceremonies for all 64 World Cup matches
- But Sportsmail has learned that the Supreme Committee have now taken over the delivery of match-day events which as a result will be more limited
FIFA have abandoned plans to stage an opening ceremony before every game of the World Cup on the instructions of Qatar’s Supreme Committee.
The lavish 30-minute ceremony fronted by Morgan Freeman at the Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday evening was widely criticised for hypocrisy and tokenism in Europe due to FIFA’s attempt to promote supposedly universal human values, with the BBC refusing to screen it on their main channels, and plans for the rest of the tournament have now been scaled down.
FIFA had planned and rehearsed similar ceremonies for each of the World Cup’s 64 matches, but Sportsmail has learned that the Supreme Committee have now taken over the delivery of match-day events which as a result will be more limited.
FIFA have abandoned plans to stage an opening ceremony before every game of the World Cup on the instructions of Qatar’s Supreme Committee. Pictured: Sunday night’s opening ceremony to the 2022 World Cup, ahead of the first match between Qatar and Ecuador
Instead of a lengthy pre-match show a shorter two-minute ceremony featuring a large replica World Cup and the flags of each of the 32 competing nations will take place ahead of the first game held at each of the eight tournament stadiums, although FIFA insiders said that this plan is also subject to a possible late change.
The 11th-hour rearrangements at a World Cup which has been 12 years in the planning have been a feature of the first tournament to be held in the Gulf region, and has raised questions as to who is actually in charge.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino insisted at the weekend that he was ‘200 per cent’ in control of the event, but FIFA’s decision to withdraw alcohol sales from stadiums at the last minute following a request from the Supreme Committee suggested otherwise.
In further embarrassment for FIFA, the opening game of the World Cup saw thousands of seats empty during the match, as spectators watching the first-round clash between the host nation and Ecuador left early.
The Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, which can hold up to 60,000 people, had thousands of empty seats approaching full-time as Qatari fans left before the final whistle.
Emtpy seats were also present during the opening ceremony, and while the stadium appeared to fill up in time for kick-off, they could be seen again during the second half of the match, with many spectators choosing to leave early.
The match saw Ecuador beat the hosts 2-0, with captain Enner Valencia scoring both goals for the South Americans, who were cheered on by their travelling support.
The loss, coupled with the empty seats, will spark concerns about enthusiasm for the tournament in the country, which has a population of less than three million (of which just 300,000 are Qatari citizens) and is roughly half the size of Wales.
There were empty seats between fans in the stadium during the opening match of tournament between Qatar and Ecuador on Sunday night
There were plenty of empty seats in the stadium in Al Khor as the hosts fell to a 2-0 defeat to the South American team
It is estimated the country has spent £184 billion bidding to host the event and building seven new stadiums, all of which can hold at least 40,000 people.
In the country’s capital of Doha, 30 miles to the south, the streets were largely quiet, although there were chaotic scenes both inside and outside the fan festival at Al Bidda Park an hour before kick-off after organisers allowed too many fans to flood the precinct.
The World Cup, which has been plagued with controversy over the Middle Eastern country’s treatment of foreign workers, LGBT+ rights and social restrictions, has been seen by Qataris as a way of varnishing its image on the world stage.
The nation has denied accusations of abuse of workers and discrimination, but that did not stop the BBC’s coverage, fronted by Gary Lineker, including a pre-packaged report on Qatar’s questionable human rights record and the controversy surrounding the tournament, instead of showing the opening ceremony.
It follows accusations over fake ‘fans’ being hired by the Qatari regime in order to hype up crowds by supporting various nations, which the country strongly denies.
Rows of empty seats were seen in the stands before the final whistle during the opening match between Ecuador and Qatar tonight
Pictured: A general view of the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2022 group A Opening Match between Qatar and Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, 20 November
In an embarrassing moment for FIFA organisers they were forced to allow a ban on alcohol sales at games after the Qatari royal family put pressure on the body due to the country’s strict ban on drinking in public.
FIFA had previously charged Budweiser a reported £63 million for a sponsorship deal giving them a beer monopoly on the tournament – but much of this could now go to waste due to the last-minute rule change.
It came just 48 hours before the start of the tournament and left fans livid, accusing the host nation of ‘ruining’ the world cup before it had even begun.
Fans can now only purchase alcohol in select hotels and bars of the FIFA fan zone, but here can only purchase four pints for a costly £12.50 each.
On Saturday the shaky start to the tournament was precluded by FIFA boss Gianni Infantino giving a rambling and bizarre press conference in which he condemned critics of the host nation.
He claimed that he felt like a ‘woman’, a ‘migrant worker’, ‘gay’, a ‘Qatari’, an ‘Asian’ and various other identities, which sparked furious reaction online given the focus on the rights of women and minority groups in the country.
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