The International Olympic Committee has warned Fifa any switch of the 2022 World Cup from the summer must not affect the winter Olympics in that year.
European countries (Uefa members) have given their overall backing to moving the tournament in Qatar to winter, to avoid the extreme heat of the summer with some expressing a preference to play in January and February instead.
Those dates would have a direct impact on the Winter Olympics — and the IOC would stand in the way of any such move, with the organisation having the ultimate sanction of kicking football out of the Summer Olympics.
The IOC today said it is confident Fifa would hold talks with them to avoid a clash. An IOC spokesman told Press Association Sport: “We were aware that Fifa might consider changing the dates for the 2022 World Cup. We are confident that Fifa will discuss the dates with us so as to coordinate them and avoid any affect on the Winter Games.”
Fifa's executive committee is now expected to agree in principle to move the World Cup to the winter at its meeting in Zurich on October 3rd/4th, after the 54 European countries that make up Uefa agreed to a switch. Britain's Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce, of Northern Ireland, said the 54 Uefa members meeting in Dubrovnik, Croatia, want Fifa to consult with the game's major stakeholders before making any decision about exactly when the tournament is staged.
Boyce said: “What has come out of this meeting, and what I think is sensible, is an agreement by the Uefa countries that the World Cup cannot be played in Qatar in the summer. Everyone was certainly in agreement about that. 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.
“There is still nine years to go and people feel Fifa should sit down with all the major stakeholders and come up with a solution that would cause the minimum disruption to football. There is plenty of time to do that in my opinion, and hopefully football will be the winner.”
There could well be disagreements in the future, however, over whether it is played in January 2022 or November/December of that year.
The British associations told the meeting they want to make sure that the Christmas week is protected for domestic football, while Uefa chiefs favour January so that it would not impact on the Champions League.
Last week, Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke said Christmas matches would not be affected by any switch — and that there was no chance of moving the tournament from Qatar.
Valcke said: “We are not talking about taking Christmas or New Year away. Christmas is safe. The World Cup will not be played between December 24th-January 1st, so that will mean Boxing Day is safe. We are not talking about removing we are talking about moving, that’s key. We are talking about moving (the tournament) in the year 2022 in the country which has been awarded the World Cup.”
The Dubrovnik meeting saw the 54 European countries split into four groups to debate the issues surrounding moving the tournament in Qatar. At least one of the groups, including the Scottish FA, suggested a possible start to the tournament as January 22nd, 2022, and Boyce said his personal preference would be for the end of January and February.
That would bring Fifa into direct conflict with the IOC — the powerful organisation which counts Fifa president Sepp Blatter and African football’s leader Issa Hayatou among its members. Other groups at the Dubrovnik meeting had different views on the best date to hold a winter tournament and Boyce said no overall decision was reached on that issue.
He added: “There has been no decision on whether it should be in January or another time. The European federations do not want FIFA to decide on the dates without consultation.”