Sepp Blatter expects winter World Cup in Qatar
The prospect of the 2022 Qatar World Cup being held in the winter moved a step closer on Friday when FIFA president Sepp Blatter said for the first time that this is what he expects will happen.
Qatar was controversially awarded the right to host the tournament last month – ahead of Australia – despite summer temperatures in the Gulf emirate soaring to well over 40 degrees Celsius.
Concerns have been raised about the health impacts of playing in such searing heat, as well for the fans following the action, and Blatter admitted winter would make more sense.
“I expect it to be in the winter because when you play football you must protect the main people, the players,” he said at a media roundtable in the Qatari capital Doha.
“We will take it up at our executive committee meeting in March.”
German legend Franz Beckenbauer, a FIFA executive committee member, and England coach Fabio Capello are among others who have voiced support for a switch of dates.
UEFA president Michel Platini is also said to be sympathetic to the idea, with January temperatures hovering between a more comfortable 20 and 30 Celsius.
But any change would have major implications for domestic competitions in Europe where the league programmes would be in full swing.
There is the issue of how much time players would need to recover afterwards – raising the possibility that domestic leagues would not resume until March.
Qatar, which is smaller than the Pacific island of Vanuatu or the US state of Connecticut, has insisted that it won the right to host the World Cup on its merits.
It put forward a proposal to build climate-controlled stadia that will enable players and fans to escape the worst of the weather, but there have been sceptics amid claims that the decision was political, linked to Qatar’s deep pockets.
Blatter said FIFA had yet to be approached by Qatar about a change of dates.
“They need to bring together an organising committee, then if they have any wishes on whether they want to change the basic conditions prevailing at the bidding process, then they have to make this demand of the FIFA Executive Committee,” he said.
“The Executive Committee is free to change anything.
“If there really is a will to change dates then we have enough time to do it because we still have 11 years to go.”
Blatter, who is seeking re-election later this year for another four-year term, once again defended his executive committee’s decision to hand the tournament to Qatar.
They did so despite official reports warning about the risks of playing the tournament in the summer heat.
“It is a logical move to go to new territories. It’s not only Qatar, but a new culture and the Arab world,” he said.
“You can have the best report in the world or the worst report but finally it is human beings who make the decisions.
“Reports are important and we published them to be transparent. All committee members knew exactly what will happen when we go to Qatar, and that is why some have already said we should play in winter.”© AAP 2013