KEIR RADNEDGE in ZURICH: The momentum building up on FIFA to declare a winter switch for the 2022 World Cup has been halted in its tracks.
Indeed, the manner in which president Sepp Blatter reviewed his executive committee’s consideration of the issue suggested that staging in the summer is still by no means out of the question.
The exco agenda had included the timing of the Qatar finals to which Blatter had added the issue of workers’ rights after the recent controversy over the deaths of construction workers in the Gulf state.
UEFA president Michel Platini, a FIFA vice-president, had led the charge for a winter World Cup and Blatter had expressed a belief that the exco would express a will to go down that desert road.
However, at a press conference after the meeting he backtracked. Claiming he had been trying only to stimulate debate, Blatter added: “I wanted to create a discussion on summer or winter and I did not expect we would make a decision now. We could not make a decision without consulting our partners.”
Hence, the only decisions were to reconfirmed Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 finals and the creation of a lengthy consultation process across the game about the pros and cons.
One of those issues – and possibly a decisive one – could be the financial damage inherent in switching away from the comparatively competition-free summer date.
FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke, earlier, had insisted that none of the losing bidders would be eligible for compensation were the finals to be switched to winter.
But Blatter conceded that significant financial and commercial consequences would have to be assessed.
He said: “This issue [compensation] will be an outcome of the discussions and consultations and then we will see what will be the consequences of liabilities or for leagues and other organisations if we played the finals in winter.”
Blatter then launched into a exposition on the consultation process. Despite expectations, FIFA will not even set up one of Blatter’s favoured ‘task forces.’ Instead Valcke will manage the consultations with Asian president Sheikh Salman taking up liaison responsibility.
Blatter conceded that he might have spoken up sooner about worries concerning the summer heat in the Gulf. He also sought to clarify the terms of the bid document which have been in dispute.
“The official documents of FIFA that were given to all the bidders state,” he said, “state that in principle, in principle [he repeated for emphasis], the competition is expected to be staged in June and July of the year of such competition.
“It is not a text that needs to bind us to June and July but there has been much made of this so we have decided we will carry out consultations which would include all the participants in an event such as the World Cup.
“The stakeholders include the sport which involves players, clubs, leagues, national associations, confederations and FIFA – but it doesn’t include only sports.
“There are other partners involved, the economic partners from marketing, the media and television. We also need to bear in mind our obligations towards these partners and so we need to carry out very deep consultations and pay a great deal of attention to them and we need to show some diplomacy and wisdom.
“The consultations would be done by the FIFA administrative staff and the secretary-general with a slight level of supervision from the president of the Asian confederation, Sheikh Salman.
“In December we will present to the executive committee the roadmap which will explain where we are heading with this consultation and we will end this consultation after the World Cup in 2014.
“Let us play this World Cup with an easy conscience and then we will be able to tell what is the best time frame in which to play the World Cup in 2022 in Qatar.”