England’s Premier League will oppose any plans to shift the timing of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after senior soccer officials said high temperatures in the desert state mean the event should be held in the winter.
Qatar beat bids from the U.S., Japan and Australia in 2010 to get rights to sports’ most-watched event in a vote by executives at soccer’s governing body, FIFA. The organization changed how it selects hosts a year later after allegations of vote buying. Russia won the right to stage the 2018 World Cup.
The Premier League is soccer’s richest competition with annual television revenues topping $2.5 billion from next season. Chief Executive Officer Richard Scudamore has said moving the World Cup from its traditional dates in June and July would lead to several disrupted seasons in European leagues.
“The Premier League’s view remains unchanged,” the English competition’s organizers said in a statement today. “We are opposed to the concept of a winter World Cup for very obvious practical reasons that would impact on all of European domestic football.”
FIFA has said Qatar, where temperatures rarely fall below 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in June and July, must seek to move the tournament before any changes can be considered. That hasn’t stopped FIFA executive committee members including European soccer chief Michel Platini and Michel D’Hooghe, the chairman of FIFA’s medical committee, from stating their preference for a change. Jim Boyce, a British vice president of FIFA, joined the debate today saying “common sense should prevail” and the competition should be moved to January.
Qatar, which is smaller in size than Connecticut, got the rights after saying it plans to install air-cooling technology to ensure matches are played at optimal temperatures.
The Premier League’s outgoing chairman Dave Richards gave his backing to moving the World Cup forward.
“We’ve got FIFA now saying that medical people are saying that they can’t play in Qatar in the summer because of the heat, which is probably right,” he told Sky Sports News while attending a conference in Qatar’s capital Doha. “I think over the next few years, things will change and they will come to a compromise.”
If the tournament is moved it may lead to protests from the losing bidders. Under the rules of the process, potential World Cup hosts were told that they were vying for a competition played in June and July.
FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said earlier this month that the 2022 World Cup could be moved to the winter if research shows holding the tournament in the summer heat would be dangerous for players. FIFA’s own technical committee reported concerns about the temperature ahead of the final vote in Zurich in December 2010.
“The fact that the competition is planned in June/July, the two hottest months of the year in this region, has to be considered as a potential health risk for players, officials, the FIFA family and spectators, and requires precautions to be taken,” the 2010 report said.
That didn’t stop FIFA’s executive committee from choosing the tournament’s first Middle East host. It polled 14 votes out of 22 in a run off with the U.S.
Harold Mayne-Nicholls, who headed the FIFA’s technical group that visited World Cup bidding nations, said changing the date wouldn’t be easy, requiring “21 days before the tournament to prepare the team, 31 days for the tournament; then seven more days after it finishes.”
Mayne-Nicholls, who is the Chilean soccer federation president, told World Soccer magazine playing games after sunset was the best option, with kick off times of 17:55, 20:55 and 23:55.
The international calendar hasn’t been set beyond 2018, leaving open the possibility of a change. By then, FIFA may also have a new president, with current head Sepp Blatter ending a fourth four-year term in 2015. Among the favorites is UEFA’s Platini, who’s stated he backed Qatar on the condition it will be played during the northern hemisphere’s winter even though that wasn’t an option at the time of the vote.
FIFA executive board gathers in two days for its quarterly meeting when plans for the next World Cup in Brazil next year, as well as the Russian and Qatar events, will be discussed.
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