Uefa members back move to winter finals
Fifa likely to ratify the decision to move to the winter at a meeting next month
An artist’s impression of the Al-Wakrah stadium complex in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup
It would once have seemed unimaginable. But the prospect of the World Cup being played in winter in a country smaller than Wales that has never before qualified has moved a major step closer after European football’s governing body yesterday backed the move.
The 54 members of Uefa, whose president Michel Platini was one of those who voted for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup in December 2010, have given their backing in principle to the likely decision to move the tournament to winter to avoid searing summer temperatures of up to 50 degrees.
Ever since the Qatar won the right to host the World Cup in controversial circumstances, speculation has raged over whether it would be possible to host the tournament in summer.
Organisers insisted air conditioning technology could keep stadiums and fanzones cool but many remained sceptical and Fifa’s own chief medical officer warned that it would be dangerous to play in June.
Opponents of the move, including the English Premier League, have argued that it will cause untold disruption not only to the 2021/22 campaign but to a season either side. To comply with Fifa rules, the football season will have to be suspended for up to eight weeks in either January and February or November and December of that year.
Hard to resolve
They argue there will be huge disruption to broadcasting partners, players’ contracts, sponsors and other sports that will be hard to resolve. Losing bidders for the 2022 tournament, including the US and Australia, are also unhappy at the prospect of the goalposts being moved.
Fox, which paid $1bn for the rights to show the World Cup in the US, is understood to be concerned about any possible clash with the NFL season while Frank Lowy, who led the Australia bid, has already called for compensation if the tournament is moved.
But Fifa, which is likely to ratify the decision to move to the winter in principle at a meeting of its executive committee on October 3rd-4th in Zurich, has insisted that the wording of its bidding documents gave it the right to shift the tournament and has insisted no compensation will be paid.
Britain’s Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce, one of 24 executive committee members who will vote on the move next month, said Uefa’s members had backed the switch at a meeting in Dubrovnik but wanted further consultation on when the World Cup should take place.
“What has come out of this meeting . . . is an agreement by the Uefa countries that the World Cup cannot be played in Qatar in the summer,” he said. “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.”
Fifa favour November
Fifa is believed to favour moving it to November and concluding before Christmas, avoiding a clash with the 2022 Winter Olympics at the start of the year and concluding in time for the traditional English Christmas programme.
The International Olympic Committee warned yesterday that any proposed dates for the 2022 World Cup must avoid a clash with the Winter Olympics.