DUBROVNIK: Michel Platini’s constituency of European football federations has handed UEFA’s president full support to pursue his ambition of a time switch for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Within weeks of casting his vote for Qatar in December 2022 the French president of the European federation launched a campaign to move the finals away from the searing temperatures of the Gulf summer.
European federation leaders have been meeting in Dubrovnik this week for a series of strategy and policy meetings.
First Platini told them he was not yet convinced he should rush off in pursuit of the FIFA presidency in 2015 and the 54 members responded with an effective vote of confidence by supporting his Qatar strategy – even though many clubs and leagues in western Europe have expressed concerns.
FIFA’s executive committee is expected to fall in line with the view of president Sepp Blatter and agree in principle, in a fortnight, to move the World Cup to the winter. The issue will be on the agenda for the FIFA exco in Zurich on October 3-4.
However concern has arisen over whether the exco can make a decision ‘in principle’ before exploring the reasoning and the alternatives.
Exco members Jeff Webb and Sunil Gulati from the central and North Confederation have signalled a will to discuss the overall issue before moving to a vote.
UEFA has eight representatives on the 27-strong FIFA exco which would provide a solid platform for Platini’s proposal.
Jim Boyce, the British vice-president of FIFA from Northern Ireland, has said, however, that the UEFA associations want FIFA to consult widely across the game before making any decision about a new time slot for the 2022 finals.
Boyce said: “What has come out of this meeting, and what I think is sensible, is an agreement by the UEFA countries that the World Cup cannot be played in Qatar in the summer. Everyone was certainly in agreement about that.
“But what the 54 countries do not want FIFA to do is to make a decision yet on exactly when in the year it is going to be played. 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.
“There is plenty of time to do that in my opinion, and hopefully football will be the winner.”
Stewart Regan, chief executive of the Scottish FA, said the overwhelming mood of delegates had been infavour of January/February 2022.
He confirmed: “There is a belief that playing it in summer would not be proper for players, for spectators and for broadcasters and media partners.”
The most popular alternatives in 2022 are January/February or November/December.
The British associations told the meeting they want Christmas week protected for domestic football while UEFA favours January/February to minimise impact on the Champions League.
FIFA is believed to be in a hurry to settle a date before the International Olympic Committee launches its bid process for the 2022 Winter Olympics which would take place in February and prove an issue for sponsors and television.
An IOC spokesman said: “We are confident FIFA will discuss the dates with us so as to co-ordinate them and avoid any affect on the Winter Games.”
The world federation has emphatically ruled out the possibility of financial compensation being offered to those nations which lost out to Qatar in the 2022 vote.
Earlier this week Frank Lowy, president of Football Federation Australia, said he would expect compensation for both the bidding costs and disruption of the 2022 season because rivals had been bidding for a June/July slot in the calendar.