2022 World Cup might be held in European winter months, says leading FIFA official
Jerome Valcke says weather in Qatar is perfect between mid-November, end of December
The World Cup is traditionally held in June and July
Qatar's intense heat in those months raises potential health risks for players and fans
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar probably will not be played in the traditional months of June and July, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke has told a French radio station.
But the governing body for world football quickly distanced itself from its second-in-command’s comments, saying, “the precise event date is still subject to an ongoing consultation process.”
There has been controversy around plans to stage the month-long tournament in Qatar’s intense summer heat, prompting calls to move the event to the winter. Qatar has said it will use cooling technology to make the environment pleasant for players and fans.
Valcke, who is FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s deputy, told France Info that he thinks the event will be played between November 15 and January 15 at the latest.
“If it’s played between November 15 and the end of December, that is when the weather is most favorable,” he said, according to a CNN translation.
The tournament is traditionally held in June and July, but concerns have been raised over the potential health risks of staging a World Cup during the intense heat.
Moving the tournament could also create problems for lucrative club competitions such as Europe’s Champions League while affecting American broadcasters, which have deals with domestic sports leagues that play through the first months of winter.
Valcke, referring to the idea of staging the event between November and January, said the weather will be about 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit), perfect for playing football.
In October, Blatter said that no decision on the scheduling of Qatar 2022 will be made until after this year’s World Cup in Brazil, which will take place between June 12 and July 13.
“As the event (in Qatar) will not be played until eight years’ time the consultation process will not be rushed and will be given the necessary time to consider all of the elements relevant for a decision,” FIFA said in a statement.
“Consequently, no decision will be taken before the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil as agreed by the FIFA Executive Committee.”
The FIFA Executive Committee is due to meet in March at its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.
The organizing committee for Qatar’s first World Cup said in a statement that it would be ready to host the tournament at any time of the year.
“During the FIFA Executive Committee meeting in October it was agreed that FIFA would enter a period of consultation on the ideal time of year to host the World Cup in Qatar– with a recommendation expected after the World Cup in Brazil,” said the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee.
“We await the outcome of this consultation period. We will be ready to host the World Cup regardless of the outcome,” it said.
Valcke’s remarks also came as a shock to his colleagues within football’s corridors of power.
“As far as I’m concerned, I am totally surprised by the news today,” FIFA Vice President Jim Boyce said. “I had been told that the FIFA Executive Committee is awaiting results of a working party on this issue. I was told no announcement on this would be made until after the World Cup in Brazil.”
If the World Cup was to be held between November and January, it would probably create a logistical headache for many major European leagues – such as the English Premier League – and for the prestigious Champions League, organized by the continent’s UEFA confederation.
American broadcaster Fox, which paid $425 million for the rights to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, has expressed concern that a “winter” World Cup could clash with the National Football League’s regular season and the Super Bowl.
The decision to award Qatar football’s showpiece event has drawn widespread condemnation and focused attention on workers’ rights in the state.
A report released by Amnesty International in November alleged that the abuse of migrant workers was rife within Qatar’s construction sector, while British newspaper The Guardian likened the conditions for such workers to “modern-day slavery.”
The recent furor around “stranded” footballer Zahir Belounis also raised questions regarding Qatar’s Kafala law.
Blatter himself described the conditions for migrant workers in Qatar as “unacceptable,” but he refuses to entertain the idea of moving the 2022 competition to another location.
In response to Amnesty’s allegations, the director of the Human Rights Department at Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said laws are in place to protect workers from mistreatment.