KEIR RADNEDGE in DOHA —- Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s secretary-general, has followed Asian confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa in stating that a World Cup switch to winter in Qatar in 2022 is virtually signed and sealed.
Despite alternative spring dates proposed by Europe’s leagues and clubs, the two key men in FIFA’s date-switch inquiry have lined up together on the inevitability of a calendar volte-face away from the traditional June/July date because of searing summer temperatures in the Gulf.
Sheikh Salman, the AFC president who chairs the consultative commission, said while in Australia at the Asian Cup that “the matter is resolved.”
Valcke, who is organising the worldwide survey of football opinion, followed up during an interview with France-Info radio station.
He said: “I think it has also been confirmed by other members of the executive committee that the World Cup would be played in winter.”
He said: “Would it be the start of the year 2022 or the end? There is a task force which will meet in Doha in a few weeks to discuss this and then in March the FIFA executive committee should take a final decision on which period and the exact dates.
“The IOC is concerned over a clash with the 2022 Winter Olympics and we will take that into account. We will listen to the leagues, the clubs, the players, the medical commission, the whole world of football, but it is still seven years away.”
Last November, Valcke talked of the likeliest options being January/February and November/December. However the European Clubs Association and European Professional Football Leagues have proposed May/June so as not to rip a hole in the middle of the European league season.
The Qatari organisers have no particular preference. They just want a decision taken as soon as possible to end uncertainty which keeps alive speculation among critics of the original award about the overall hosting in the Middle East.
Communciations director Nasser Al-Khater said: “It makes no difference to our preparation. If it’s January 2022 we have six months less. If it’s December 2022 we have six months more. But, anyway, we will be ready by 2020.”