ZURICH: FIFA president Sepp Blatter expects FIFA to shift the 2022 World Cup finals out of the Qatar summer but is not as certain as to which other date writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Blatter has said he expects the executive committee meeting on October 3-4 to approve a move in principle because of concerns over player welfare in the high temperatures in June and July.
He was speaking to the Associated Press during ‘his’ local charity sports weekend on home ground in the southern Swiss canton of Valais. Blatter forecast that the exco would approve the change and then launch consultations on the best alternative timing.
He said: “I would be very much surprised, more than surprised, if the exco will not accept the principle you cannot play in summer in Qatar. What will be following, this would be then decided later.
“Those that have taken the decision at the time, they knew there is problems with the heat. They knew it, because it was in the (technical) report. It was wrong to say, `Now we have to play in summer,’ because in summer you cannot play there.
“Therefore the exco now shall take the decision – and they will take it – that in summer you can’t play in Qatar.
“What will be the ongoing situation with such a decision, we have to look on the international calendar. We have to look if and how it is possible, when we don’t play in summer, when is the best time to play in winter?”
Consultations would need to involve leagues, clubs, national associations and players.
FIFA’s exco voted 14-8 for Qatar in December 2010 in preference to rival bids from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States. It did so despite clear warnings about summer temperatures in the Gulf from technical commission chairman Harold Mayne-Nicholls.
The Qatar organising committee has insisted it can host the finals at whatever time of the year FIFA decides but it would welcome a decision sooner rather than later.
Critics of a switch, pursued vigorously by UEFA president Michel Platini, has been led by the English Premier League which opposes having the heart of the traditional season ripped apart.
The finals demand at least a two-month time slot. One suggestion, to keep disruption to a minimum in western Europe – which provides most of the best players at a World Cup – has been a staging in May and early June. January/February is ruled out to avoid a clash with the Winter Olympics.
If the end of the year is preferable, running into most countries’ winter or summer breaks, western European leagues would need to be suspended for all of November and December.
Blatter’s sports weekend in the the village of Ulrichen included a Sepp Blatter Golfturnier at the Source du Rhone course on Saturday followed by Sunday’s Sepp Blatter Fussballturnier.
Blatter used the occasion for informal discussions about FIFA/UEFA business with the European federation’s president Michel Platini.
Other event guests included Australia coach Holger Osieck, former internationals Gabriel Calderon, Kubilay Turkyilmaz and Roger Wehrli, snowboarder Patrizia Kummer, former skiers Rainer Salzgeber and Konrad Hallenbarter and Swiss ambassador Hans-Ruedi Bortis.