The new Football Association chairman, Greg Dyke, said yesterday that it was unfeasible that the 2022 World Cup could be played in Qatar’s summer months, laying down an immediate challenge to Fifa to switch the tournament to the winter.
Dyke, 66, makes his first public appearance as FA chairman tomorrow at the Community Shield, having spent the last two months getting to know his new organisation. However, he has been unequivocal about one of the biggest issues in world football, the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, to be played in the summer when temperatures rise above 40C in the Gulf nation.
The FA chairman suggested that one solution would be that the tournament should be held in the winter months, a proposal that Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League, opposes. Dyke’s predecessor, David Bernstein, also described that option in June as “fundamentally flawed”, on the basis that Qatar’s bid had been to stage a summer World Cup.
The German Fifa executive committee member Franz Beckenbauer has been behind the drive to change the calendar of European domestic leagues to accommodate a winter World Cup in 2022. The Premier League has been the strongest voice in opposition, advancing the argument that it is Fifa’s problem to solve – and that the rest of football is not beholden to solve it for Fifa.
Dyke said yesterday: “I don’t know how many people have been to Qatar in June. I have. The one thing I can tell you is you can’t play a football tournament in Qatar in June. Even if all the stadia are air-conditioned – which seems a bit strange in terms of the green policy – it would be impossible for the fans. Just go out there, wander around in that sort of heat.
“The FA’s position will be you can’t play it in summer in Qatar. Fifa therefore has two choices; you either move it, and you either move it in time or to another location. I suspect either ends up in some sort of litigation but then someone should have worked that out in 2010 when it was awarded. It’s genuinely becoming accepted that you can’t play it in Qatar in the summer. That would be our position.
“It is then up to Fifa to decide whether to keep in Qatar or move it into autumn or winter. That’s what the discussions will be of the next few months. I understand the reaction of the Premier League to not want to move it. I have some sympathy with them. They didn’t have to choose to give it to Qatar in the summer but that’s where it is. It will either have to be moved out of the summer or another location. I suspect the former is more likely than the latter.”
Dyke’s first England international as FA chairman is on Wednesday when the national team play Scotland for the first time since November 1999 at Wembley. It is the last friendly before England’s critical run of World Cup qualifiers against Moldova, Ukraine (away), Montenegro and Poland that will decide their place, or otherwise, at the finals in Brazil next summer.
Having been appointed under the Bernstein regime, the England manager, Roy Hodgson, finds himself with a new boss for the remainder of the campaign. Dyke said that he and Hodgson had discussed the next three months and the FA chairman was confident that the side could qualify for Brazil, even without having to go through the play-offs.
Dyke said: “There are four important competitive internationals and we are all pretty optimistic, we are going to get to Brazil. Some people think it might be via the play-offs, I’m not so sure, I think we might get straight there. Roy is certainly confident. So are we at the FA that we will get to Brazil.
“We went into a couple of tournaments in the summer where we didn’t do too well in, particularly the Under-21s. We are now going through a process of appointing an Under-21 manager and deciding the way it works,” he added. “I spoke with Alex [Horne, the FA general secretary] and there needs to be more joined-up thinking, the FA and football structure than it is now, right the way from young kids through.
“We need to make it very clear which tournaments we are going to take very seriously. In the summer [when the Under-21s, Under-20s and Under-19s played in tournaments] I didn’t think we made that clear and I think that was a mistake.”