Sepp Blatter has today said he “expects” the 2022 World Cup will be staged in winter rather than its traditional June or July slot. The FIFA president is in the Qatari capital Doha ahead of the opening match of the Asian Cup and his latest salvo is bound to cause controversy amongst fans and clubs.
“I expect it will be held in the winter. We have time to look at this question, it is still 11 years away but we must decide the most adequate period for a successful World Cup which means January or the end of the year. When you play football you have to protect the main people - the players,” said Blatter.
This is because Qatar is one of the world’s hottest countries and temperatures can reach a truly scorching 50°C in the summer months – conditions sure to cause difficulties for both players and fans. World footballers’ union FIFpro recently stated that it also believed the 2022 World Cup should be in Qatar’s cooler months.
Blatter isn’t the first name in world football to call for the competition to be moved. Back in December Franz Beckenbauer, who also sits on FIFA’s Executive Committee, suggested rearranging football’s international calendar to accommodate the 2022 World Cup.
Beckenbauer said: “One should think about a different solution. In January or February you have a comfortable 25°C there. Plans for the biggest leagues would have to change for 2022 but that would not be a major undertaking. It would be an alternative to using climate control at great expense for stadiums and fanzones.”
Qatar’s initial solution hadn’t been to change football’s calendar but rather the environment in which the game was played. The oil-rich emirate intends to build a whole host of newly built, climate-controlled, “flatpack” stadia.
However the decision is not Blatter’s alone, even if in recent years what Blatter has wanted, Blatter has tended to get. FIFA’s Executive Committee is charged with determining the dates, locations and format of tournaments. The Executive Committee consists of the FIFA president, eight vice-presidents and 15 members, appointed by the individual confederations and associations.
“These issues should really have been taken into account during the bidding process, rather than now,” said FSF director of international affairs Kevin Miles. “We are where we are though and we'll be speaking to England fans and FSF members to see what they make of Blatter’s latest plans.”
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