Sepp Blatter, the President of FIFA, international soccerâ€™s largest governing body, expects his executive committee to decide soon that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be moved from desert summer to winter. Blatter told The Associated Press this week that an Oct. 3-4 meeting in Zurich should approve the change, and begin the rescheduling process. â€œI would be very much surprised, more than surprised, if the ExCo will not accept the principle you cannot play in summer in Qatar,â€ Blatter said in an interview on the sidelines of the annual charity football tournament in his home village. â€œWhat will be following, this would be then decided later.â€ Blatter said consultations would involve leagues, clubs, national associations and players, through their international union FIFPro. But he set no timetable for their final decisions.
Qatarâ€™s suitability in June and July, when temperatures routinely rise above 104 Fahrenheit was questioned even before FIFAâ€™s board awarded it the tournament in December 2010. Qatar defeated bids from the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia. However, the 2022 World Cup organizing committee has stated its confidence in developing stadium air-cooling technology, intended to reduce field-level temperatures to 81 Fahrenheit. Qatari officials also repeatedly said they would change plans if FIFA formally requested it.
FIFA and Blatter have gradually shifted their position from insisting that Qatar must ask for a change â€” a scenario interpreted as protecting FIFA against potential legal challenges. FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told reporters in March that the governing body would not have prompted discussion about change without being sure of its legal position.
Now, some of the same FIFA board members who helped choose Qatar â€” in a decisive 14-8 vote over the U.S. â€” are set to switch the tournament hosting plan. â€œThose that have taken the decision at the time, they knew there is problems with the heat. They knew it, because it was in the (technical) report,â€ Blatter said. â€œIt was wrong to say, â€˜Now we have to play in summer,â€™ because in summer you cannot play there. Therefore the ExCo now shall take the decision â€” and they will take it â€” that in summer you canâ€™t play in Qatar.â€
Blatter has previously suggested November as a possible start for the month-long tournament while recent speculation has focused on May. A January-February slot is unlikely because of a clash with the 2022 Winter Olympics. â€œWhat will be the ongoing situation with such a decision, we have to look on the international calendar,â€ Blatter said. â€œWe have to look if and how it is possible, when we donâ€™t play in summer, when is the best time to play in winter?â€
The calendar is currently set through 2018, and the next round of discussions will look to the 2019-2022 cycle of seasons. Wealthy European soccer clubs and leagues would likely raise the largest objections to scheduling the 2022 World Cup during their traditional August-thru-May season.