World Cup 2022: Fifa prepared for Qatar vote delay

World Cup 2022: Fifa prepared for Qatar vote delay

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By Richard ConwayFifa is expected to agree to move the 2022 World Cup from its traditional slot on the football calendar – but only after proper talks have happened.Fifa boss Sepp Blatter wanted the world governing body to vote on a switch at this week’s two-day meeting in Zurich.
But with opposition to such a plan gathering momentum, it seems a decision on a move will be delayed.
Fears about the impact Qatar’s summer heat could have on players and fans has prompted the scheduling re-think.
Blatter said in August he wanted to move the 2022 World Cup away from June and July to avoid temperatures of more than 40C in the Gulf state.
But Uefa president Michel Platini is one of several members of Fifa’s executive committee who feel more talks with the game’s stakeholders are needed before any vote can take place.
The executive committee’s two-day meeting begins on Thursday, when such topics as Brazil’s preparations for next year’s World Cup will be under discussion.
The issue of Qatar is on the executive committee’s agenda for Friday.
Blatter made his comments about Qatar in light of increasing concerns about the dangers the country’s extreme summer heat could pose to players, officials and fans.
Former France, Fulham, Manchester United and Everton striker Louis Saha told BBC Sport he thought it was impossible for players to handle the high temperatures.
“I was in Qatar recently and it was 48C,” he said. “Believe me, it is impossible to have a proper game down there.”
Fifa had been expected to take a decision in principle to move the 2022 tournament from June and July when it met in Zurich this week.
That would be followed by a consultation process to determine the exact dates for a rescheduled competition.
But there has been opposition to moving the tournament, notably from the English Premier League, whose chief executive Richard Scudamore predicted “chaos” if a switch to the northern hemisphere winter is approved.
Britain’s Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce believes the world governing body should delay any detailed decision on moving the tournament until there has been proper talks with the game’s stakeholders.
Boyce, from Northern Ireland, is prepared to back a decision in principle to move the World Cup to the winter to avoid the summer heat in Qatar but thinks it is too early to decide on the exact timing.
“I wouldn’t object to taking a decision on moving it in principle,” he said. “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.”
That view was also expressed to BBC Sport by another member of the 28-strong executive committee, who wished to remain anonymous, while former British sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe agreed with the stance of Platini, who is also a Fifa vice-president.
Sutcliffe told BBC Radio 5 live: “I think that Platini is right, there needs to be consultation with our Premier League and with other leagues.”
On Thursday, Football League chairman Greg Clarke, who was part of England’s 2018 bid delegation three years ago when Qatar won the vote for 2022, said Fifa should run the vote again rather than switch the tournament to the winter.
“It should be like any public tender process and if the tender isn’t valid, then have a new one,” he said.
“There were some really good bids from people like Australia and the United States, who spent a lot of money and have a great footballing culture and really wanted to run the World Cup.”
Uefa’s 54 member associations have already backed a switch, while Europe’s leading clubs have said they are “open” to the possibility of a winter World Cup in Qatar in 2022.
Qatar, which promised revolutionary air-cooling technology to counter the summer heat, reiterated in a statement on Wednesday that they are prepared to host the tournament at any time.
“If the international football community reaches a consensus to move the event to an alternate date, we are able to accommodate that change,” it read.
While a decision on Friday to move the tournament should not yet be ruled out, Platini wants the executive committee to focus more on the plight of Qatar’s migrant workers following allegations over severe labour law abuses.
Fifa will receive an update on Qatar’s preparations on Thursday and is expected to discuss when the tournament will be staged and the issue of migrant workers on Friday.
If Fifa decide to switch the timings of the 2022 World Cup, Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the head of the Fifa inspection team that assessed Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid, believes the tournament should be moved to January and February, when temperatures in the Gulf state average about 22C.
However, that could lead to a potential clash with other big sporting events, notably the Winter Olympics and American football’s Superbowl, not to mention domestic football leagues and the Champions League.
New International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has said he is confident there will be no clash with the Winter Olympics.
But, under tentative plans drawn up by Mayne-Nicholls, the final of football’s showpiece tournament would coincide with the Superbowl.
American TV network Fox, World Cup rights-holder for North America, is understood to be concerned over the commercial implications of any move that would see the 2022 World Cup clash with the NFL season, let alone the Superbowl, which is due to take place on Sunday, 6 February.
If the IOC and Fox can be accommodated, Fifa could still face the ire of Australia, Japan, South Korean and the United States, who all lost out to Qatar in the race to stage the 2022 World Cup.
Australia is demanding compensation from Fifa, arguing that it based its bid on a World Cup held in June and July.
Football’s governing body claims there are no grounds for compensation as all bidders had to accept there could be a change to the schedule at the governing body’s behest. – BBC Sport

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