World Cup 2022: Uefa members back winter tournament in Qatar

 

The prospect of a winter World Cup in 2022 took a step forward after European football chiefs agreed a summer event could not be played in Qatar.

Summer temperatures in the Gulf state can reach 50C, sparking health fears for players and fans alike.

Uefa's 54 member associations backed the switch at a meeting in Croatia.

"The World Cup cannot be played in Qatar in the summer," said Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce. "Everyone was certainly in agreement about that."

Greg Dyke: "You can't hold this tournament in the summer in Qatar"

Boyce, a former president of the Irish Football Association, added that the debate was now whether the tournament would be played in January of 2022 or in November and December of that year.

Uefa favours January so that it does not impact on the Champions League, but British associations want to ensure their domestic festive fixtures are protected.

Boyce says the associations do not want Fifa to rush that decision.

"There is still nine years to go and people feel Fifa should sit down with all the major stakeholders and come up with a solution that would cause the minimum disruption to football," he said.

"There is plenty of time to do that in my opinion."

Fifa could agree in principle to alter the timing of the World Cup at a meeting in Zurich early next month, but the news that European football chiefs are backing a switch is significant.

Analysis

The Premier League's position on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar - as voiced recently by chief executive Richard Scudamore - is that the bid process was thorough and dealt with all the issues of staging the event in the summer.

It was on this basis that the World Cup was awarded, with all the climate implications.

If this is now regarded as the wrong decision, Scudamore's view is that a switch to winter is not the right way to make amends.

The Premier League also has understandable concerns about the disruption to its own calendar should the World Cup be moved. Would there be a break in the season? Would the schedule of an entire season be altered?

There are also reservations about staging Premier League games in England in June and July. Is there an appetite for it in this country?

The agreement from Europe's football leaders that it cannot be played in Qatar in summer will be welcomed by Fifa and almost certainly used against any Premier League objections, as momentum grows for a switch.

That is because European associations represent 10 members of Fifa's 22-strong executive committee, which will make the final decision.

Some domestic leagues around the world are likely to be unhappy at Thursday's news.

The English Premier League declined to comment, but has always opposed a switch and together with other European leagues, has called for there to be no definitive decision next month and a full consultative process.

Chief executive Richard Scudamore said last month that a winter World Cup would be too disruptive and cause major disruption to three domestic seasons - 2021-22 and the ones either side - as well as impacting on broadcasting contracts.

Scudamore was adamant the tournament could go ahead in the summer.

Fifa's own medical chief, Michel D'Hooghe, has already advised that the risks posed to supporters by extreme heat are too great, while Fifa president Sepp Blatter admitted the governing body may have made a "mistake" in awarding the competition to Qatar.

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has already said the World Cup might have to move location if a suitable time to play the event in Qatar cannot be agreed.

However, the head of the Qatar 2022 World Cup, Hassan al-Thawadi, has rejected calls for the tournament to be awarded to another country.

Earlier this week, Australia's soccer chief Frank Lowy said his country's Football Federation (FFA) may seek compensation if the 2022 World Cup is switched to the winter.

Australia lost out to Qatar in the voting but have asked Fifa to look at awarding "just and fair compensation" to those nations that "invested many millions, and national prestige, in bidding for a summer event".