Richard Scudamore calls for meaningful consultation before Fifa move World Cup to winter date
Governing body set to appoint a task force today to look into the controversial move
The English Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Scudamore, has warned it would be “morally reprehensible” for Fifa to move the Qatar 2022 World Cup to winter without meaningful consultation with the rest of the game.
The pressure from the Premier League and other professional leagues, Fifa’s broadcasting partners, and other stakeholders, looks set to result in a more emollient tone from the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, at the conclusion of a two-day meeting today. Blatter is expected to announce that there is broad agreement that the 2022 World Cup cannot be played at the height of summer but that a lengthy consultation period will be required to find a way forward.
As a result, there may be no final decision on the dates of the 2022 tournament for nine months or more. Fifa’s preferred option of November and December 2022 is seen as the most likely option but the Uefa president, Michel Platini, would prefer January and February so as not to clash with the group stages of the Champions League.
“I wouldn’t object to taking a decision on moving it in principle – I think nearly everybody is agreed on that,” said Northern Ireland’s Jim Boyce, the British representative on the Fifa executive committee. “But I don’t think we can make any decision on the exact timing – should it be in November, January or whenever – until we have got everyone in the game around the table to find a solution.”
Address the issue
Blatter is also expected to address the issue of workers’ rights in Qatar after an investigation found that dozens of Nepalese workers employed on infrastructure projects have died in recent weeks alone.
While there is a growing private acceptance in the football world among those who have opposed the switch to winter to avoid searing summer temperatures of 50 degrees and more, that the move is inevitable, there remains widespread annoyance at the way Fifa has gone about it.
“The language seems to be: ‘Qatar have won it. Right, now what? Where are we going to play it?’ Fifa has absolute power and responsibility in one area of that. But it would be morally reprehensible if they were to start tinkering with the World Cup calendar as early as October of this year,” said Scudamore.
“As though because they have the power to decide where the World Cup goes, they have the power to decide when it’s played. Those are two very different things. The sporting calendar across the world is affected.”
The association of European Professional Football Leagues, of which the Premier League is a part, has highlighted a range of potential issues with a winter switch that would affect the calendars for the 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons. They include the impact on players’ contracts, broadcast deals and the knock-on effect on other sports.
A Fifa spokesman insisted there was “no doubt” the 2022 tournament would be played in Qatar, despite the ongoing investigation by Michael Garcia, the head of the investigatory arm of Fifa’s ethics committee, into the election process.
‘Play in winter’
“What is open to question is if we play in winter – and if so, is it November, December, January? But there is no doubt we will play in Qatar,” he said.
Fifa are now set to appoint a task force today to look into the controversial winter move. Blatter is understood to be considering appointing controversial Bahrain Fifa member Sheikh Salman al Khalifa – who has been accused of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses – to head the task force.
Fifa’s ethics chief Garcia has embarked on an investigation of all 2018 and 2022 bidders with France Football magazine this week suggesting one Fifa member had been involved in property deals linked to Qatar.
Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, has no concerns about any retribution and likened the allegations to outlandish conspiracy theories
Asked about the France Football allegations, he added: “Read the story and realise I think, sooner or later at a point in time, I think what we’re going to see is a picture of the grassy knoll in the JFK assassination and instead of it being smoke they’re going to say it’s the Qatari headdress and it’s us.
“For us, we’ve always indicated we’ve adhered to every rule within Fifa, we actually went to great length – in many different situations – to ensure that we’re within the bidding rules and the bidding registration rules.”
In relation to the issue of migrant workers, after an investigation revealed dozens of Nepalese had died and there is apparent widespread ill treatment, Al Thawadi said it was an issue that was being tackled even before the 2010 World Cup vote and was being accelerated by being tournament hosts. He said: “When it comes to people dying it is not a media issue – it’s a humanitarian issue, in the end it’s human nature. Is it acceptable? Nobody accepts it. The statements from the government indicates that.”