Winter World Cup in Qatar moves giant stride closer as Uefa backs plan for 2022 switch

Turmoil ahead after European confederation rules out summer tournament in Qatar due to heat problems

The prospect of a winter World Cup being staged in Qatar in 2022 moved a significant step closer on Thursday when Uefa’s 54-member countries gave their overall backing to the controversial switch which would result in a radical overhaul of the football calendar.

According to Jim Boyce, Britain’s Fifa vice-president, Uefa members consider it “impossible” to play in the searing heat of a Qatari summer. Fifa is expected to agree in principle next month that the tournament will not be held in its regular summer slot and the decision of Uefa – the Europeans are the strongest of the global confederations – makes a change ever more likely, even if the continent’s major clubs and leagues remain opposed.

“They [Uefa members] all agree that to play the World Cup, to take thousands of fans to the biggest sporting event in the middle of summer would be impossible,” said Boyce.

Any switch will heighten calls for compensation from those Qatar beat to win the hosting rights for the 2022 finals, notably Australia. That is a path European leagues may look to follow. Fifa is also likely to face demands from broadcasters to renegotiate lucrative deals, with US network Fox in particular set against any move that might clash with the NFL season.

The Premier League has always opposed a move, arguing that the bids were for a summer tournament so that is when it should be played. The European Professional Football Leagues association, of which the Premier League is a member, has called on Fifa to undergo an “appropriate consultation period” before making a decision. The EPFL believes next month is too early to decide.

The decision to award the tournament to Qatar has been controversial ever since the 2010 vote. With temperatures in the summer reaching the high 30s, Fifa’s own medical guidelines categorize the risk of playing at that temperature as “extreme”. Switching the tournament to either January/February or November/December has long been regarded as the probable outcome.

Uefa’s meeting in Dubrovnik concludes today and Michel Platini, the Uefa president and a long-time supporter of Qatar 2022, is expected to clarify its stance in favour of a switch and stress the need for Fifa to consult with all interested parties before settling on the dates for the tournament.

“What has come out of this meeting, and what I think is sensible, is an agreement by the Uefa countries that the World Cup cannot be played in Qatar in the summer,” said Boyce, the Northern Irishman who attended the Uefa meeting. “Everyone was certainly in agreement about that. But what the 54 countries do not want Fifa to do is to make a decision yet on exactly when in the year it is going to be played.

“There is still nine years to go and people feel Fifa should sit down with all the major stakeholders and come up with a solution that would cause the minimum disruption to football.”

European football is though divided on when the tournament should be played. The British associations have been assured by Fifa that the traditional Christmas schedule will not be affected. Uefa favour a January start to minimise the impact on the Champions League, while Fifa are believed to want it to begin in November to avoid upsetting the International Olympic Committee by clashing with the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Platini also met with Uefa’s Professional Football Strategy Council, which includes representatives of the continent’s major leagues and player unions. That body wants detailed talks with Fifa before giving its backing to any major alterations to the calendar.

Bobby Barnes, deputy chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association and in Croatia as a delegate for FIFPro, the international players’ union, said the possibility that the finals may still be switched to another country remains an issue. “People are unified that a summer World Cup is increasingly unlikely — whether that means a change in venue or a change in scheduling is still to be discussed,” said Barnes.

But Fifa maintain that there is no prospect of the tournament being taken away from Qatar. Earlier this year it set up what is claimed to be an independent commission investigating the awarding of the finals to Qatar amid allegations of impropriety and vote swapping – the 2018 and 2022 hosts were chosen at the same time. But a change of venue remains off the agenda.

“We are not talking about removing we are talking about moving, that’s key,” said Jerome Valcke, Fifa’s general secretary, last week. “We are talking about moving [the tournament] in the year 2022 in the country which has been awarded the World Cup.”

At the Uefa meeting members were divided into four groups to explore options. The Scottish Football Association was among the group that proposed a start date of 22 January.

“The mood of the meeting was very much supportive of pulling it forward to the beginning of 2022," said Stewart Regan, the SFA’s chief executive. He added that member countries would “have discussions with their respective league bodies.”

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
News
i100
Life and Style
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits