The elongated table that the group of men now sat at was comprised of expertly cut glass and a sleek combination of metals that gave the office furniture a modern edge that belied the wood which bedecked the floor. The building that housed this meeting was also on the aged side, but had been chosen for its strong links to the roots of the very sport they discussed. The thought process behind the decision was convoluted, but essentially, if this ‘Think-Tank’ were to be located within a building of such heritage, then it may augur towards a decision that had the sport’s best interests at heart.
Ten men, all resplendent in suits that cost more than an annual wage for the waiting staff of the meeting, sat in the plush leather seats that were positioned symmetrically around the space-age table. All could have been the clone of the other. Balding, skin and waistband suffering from the lavish diet that was bestowed upon them by holding such an esteemed position. The cadre of heavy-breathing men who had one-track minds had probably ten years left on this earth, tops.
They were all here, enjoying the finest of champagnes in flutes of crystal, under the premise of the next Ryder Cup. After ‘The Miracle of Medinah’, the sports stock had never been higher. Ticket admissions had risen tenfold for all the Majors and television rights contract talks had been the herald for each of these men to pocket yet another bonus with multiple zeroes.
The man sat at the head of the table was of a different ilk to the bloated husks that dotted the rest of the perimeter of the table. Slim and with a modest blue suit, he could’ve been CEO of the governing body of European golf or he could’ve been Manager of your local supermarket. He had an amiable face that was open to conversation but also wouldn’t have let him down in a poker game. Instead of a glass of champagne, a bottle of regular spring water stood next to his stack of notes. He stood up.
” Gentlemen. Thank you all for meeting here at such short notice. Especially those who have travelled in from the US. We sit here after the most glorious two years of golf. Revenues are up. Audiences are up. Merchandise is flying. We now see another Ryder Cup on the horizon and the chance to elevate this event to another stratosphere. With this opportunity, we must be open to new ideas from other circles. With this thought in mind, I’ve managed to recruit a high profile consultant to put across some ideas that have worked in his field. It is important to keep an open mind.”
The main double doors swung open and a swarm of men dressed in the garb of Saudi Arabia or Qatar denizens burst through. They formed an efficient line that ended just at the head of the table where a conveniently placed slide projector was now situated. These fellas may be mysterious, but they were well drilled.
As soon as the line had been formed, a small man walked through. A blue suit hung on his corpulent frame as if it was attempting to creep away. As he walked past each Arabian man, they threw petals down in front of each footstep the small man took. Finally, the blue-suited man stood in front of the group at the table, with an air of aloofness. The man at the head of the table spoke.
” Gentlemen, I give you Sepp Blatter. This man has overseen a radical upturn in popularity for football and the last World Cup was a festival of football that had never been seen before. Please do listen to his ideas.” He sat down with impeccable timing. The small man did not hesitate and struck while the audience was perplexed.
” Eh, guys! With my brilliant ideas, we can make this game with a stick and a hole, the greatest of all time! Now, time for my first idea!!!”
With a curt nod, he indicated to the men who dressed in familiar Arab clothes, who all rushed with abandon toward the slide projector. They all toppled over each other like a joke in a Three Stooges movie. One remained and activated the slide machine. Illuminated on the blank wall in the eyeline of all golf’s power men – was a massive sun.
Sepp looked around at the men who shared the same gormless look. He ploughed on.
” That’s right guys! Who wants to watch a sport when it’s raining and grey? Everybody loves the sunshine and heat! Why, when the World Cup rolls around in 2022, the people are going to be so grateful we are holding it in a barren desert! The extreme heat will help us sell official licensed ice-creams and drinks! Everyone is a winner!”
One bloated golf CEO spoke up. ” Erm, What about if the country we are holding it in isn’t exactly of the correct temperature? I mean, when we hold it in the UK, the usual weather is dank and wet and it doesn’t restrict our audience capacity!”
With another sharp nod of his baggy face, another man dressed as a Dubai native walked towards the man at the table who had spoke up. The Arabian man handed the outspoken golf official a brown envelope that looked packed to the brim. The outspoken man looked down at the envelope and immediately sat down. Sepp started to speak again in his familiar nasal whinge.
” I see we’re all on the same page now guys! Now, in regards to the location of the event as the good man just mentioned! If we can’t have sun, then we move towards where the sun lives! Golf needs to reach all corners of the globe! So, with this in mind, the next Ryder Cup should be held in……”
Another Arabian man, who now brandished a small drumkit, started to produce a drumroll on cue.
” The projector clicked onto the next slide. The image that befell them was a vista of sand dunes and wizened shrubs.
A smile smeared across the visage of Blatter.
” That’s right guys! We’ll hold the Ryder Cup in the Sahara Desert! It is completely untapped! We can get there before anyone else and make it the new home of golf!”
As each man that sat around the table started to stand up, another Arabian man hustled to each standing man and handed them a stuffed brown envelope. They all took one glance at the office stationary filled with their hearts desire and sat down, apparently willing to listen to another ludicrous idea.
Sepp, now realising he had the room in his copious pocket, started to brazenly pace the room, with the image projection distorting wildly as he walked in front of the projection. The colours on his skin gave Blatter the appearance of a sickly chameleon.
” Now guys, stay with me here! With the World Cup in Qatar in 2022, they didn’t have any stadia to hold games! They had no infrastructure, NOTHING! We have had to build them from scratch! Nothing is impossible! And all this has been possible with the loss of only 21000 lives! It matters not, as they gladly gave their pitiful lives to the greater good, so that the whole world can enjoy the greatest show on earth! So we hold the Ryder Cup in the Sahara Desert! We build the greatest golf course on earth with no expense spared! We hire cheap local labour and pay them a pittance, but we will look like the heroes as we have hired local men who didn’t have work! It is a no-fail idea! Once the glorious course has finished, we charge a ransom for tickets and build a massive resort to capitalise on people who need to stay in the area! Again, we hire locals! So cheap and expendable!”
By this time, Sepp had begun to froth at the mouth. All the excitement had held him in a reverie and he was now in full flow. The Arabian man who was operating the slide projector was in full panic mode attempting to keep up with Blatter’s speech. The projector was struggling even further, smoke billowing out of the vents in the machine as it hurriedly switched between images of golf courses that looked like mirages in the middle of acres of sand, hotel resorts that had every amenity imaginable, it showed desert dwellers who carried loads of material towards a site. The projector seemed to resign itself to defeat with the last slide – a family located in the Saraha desert who were crying over the shattered body of their dead father, whilst in the background, a large queue of men outside a building site waiting to be offered work. The machine erupted into sparks and a lick of flame.
With the eruption of fire, the state of the art sprinkler system kicked in. It would seem that fire wasn’t enough make these men leave the room, but a drop of water on their clothes sent them shrieking from the vicinity. All that were left was the mysteriously faced slim man at the head of the table and Sepp Blatter, who hadn’t noticed the fire and was now gibbering to himself and a large Yucca plant which stood motionless in the corner.
The slim man tapped a bewildered Blatter on the shoulder. Sepp wheeled around and now faced him. The slim man spoke.
” So, you want to take one of the most prestigious sporting events in history, move it away from where the spectators can easily access it and host it in an inhospitable wasteland and exploit citizens in the worst way – all to maximise profit margins? ”
Sepp, now with eyes that burned fiercely rather than swam without focus, moved his face closer to the slim mans own.
He uttered in a guttural tone….
” You bet.”
The slim man didn’t move away from Blatter’s rancid breath and fixed his gaze upon Sepp’s.
” As Chairman of the PGA, where do I sign?”
This may be a ludicrous setting, but it hopefully raises a prominent question within all who read this nonsense. Would any other sport allow this to happen to their flagship event? Would fans of American football allow the Superbowl to take place in Anchorage, Alaska? Would rugby union fans allow the European Rugby Champions Cup to be hosted in the heat of the Australian bush? Not only that, the amount of migrant worker deaths is being papered over when it should be at the fulcrum of the news. Why isn’t more being made of this? The World Cup bid for Qatar, from the planning to the implementation, has been riddled with sleaze, corruption scandals and now the ruthless use of workers desperate to earn a crust.
And still the Qatar World Cup, despite now being played in December and disturbing all domestic football in Europe, rolls on.
You couldn’t make it up.