BRUSSELS: The gathering storm over the 2022 World Cup in Qatar may just have provided a welcome raison d’etre for the Association of European Professional Football Leagues writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The EPFL has been searching for a specific beyond beyond a talking shop or networking provision for league officials within Europe.
Now it may have precisely that and has duly seized on the opportunity by coordinating concerns that world federation FIFA may rush into a winter switch decision without studying the issues thoroughly – just as FIFA clearly failed to study properly the ramifications of its original decision to take the 2022 finals to the Gulf.
FIFA’s executive committee meets on October 3-4 to discuss the issue of switching the event from its traditional slot in the calendar, with the prospect of a ‘Winter World Cup’ a contentious one amongst European football stakeholders.
The EPFL, representing 29 leagues, has set on out five key points which it believes must be considered by FIFA.
In echoing the European Club Association it has urged a “careful assessment” through a full consultation and decision making process balancing all relevant interests, including all football stakeholders before any changes to the international calendar are put forward.
The EPFL said a decision cannot be rushed with “artificial deadlines” stressing the length of time remaining until the 2022 tournament.
Concerning climate worries around a tournament in June or July, the EPFL stated: “If concerns are raised as to the deliverability of the World Cup 2022 at the traditional time for the tournament, a medical assessment in respect of how the climatic conditions during summer in the Middle East would or would not affect players’ health and fans’ comfort shall be developed and made available, also taking into account the drawbacks of a such rescheduling.”
The EPFL noted that such drawbacks could include the scheduling of qualifiers for the World Cup, a winter tournament’s impact on other football events and also a potential clash with the 2022 Winter Olympics. Finally, the EPFL also noted that leagues would require an assessment of the commercial/media and legal consequences of a switch in dates.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has denied suggesting that the Qatar decision was a “mistake” as had been construed from his response in an email interview with a website.
He said: “By rotation it was time to go to the Arabic world – and now here we are in the Arab world. It is not a very big country, but it is a very important one. So the decision was absolutely in the context of the politics of FIFA and especially in the context of the politics of this president.”
He added: “We can play also in winter time and this is also a question of solidarity. If you never play in winter time the World Cup, you will be in the situation where all the countries around the equator and southern hemisphere… can never play in the winter. (Football) is a sport that is played not only in Europe but all around the world.”