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.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years