Qatar set to be first winter World Cup, says Blatter
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is likely to be a winter tournament after FIFA president Sepp Blatter gave the clearest indication yet that it would be moved. He said yesterday that he "expects" it to be staged in January or December rather than the June-July slot promised in Qatar's bid.
Blatter's comments, delivered on the opening day of the Asian Cup, are the strongest signal yet that the FIFA leadership share concerns that playing the tournament in scorching summer temperatures would be dangerous and irresponsible.
"I expect it will be held in the winter," Blatter said. "We have time to look at this question -- it is still 11 years away -- but we must decide the most adequate period for a successful World Cup, which means January or December."
Moving to winter would have huge implications for European football, which would be disrupted for at least three seasons.
Premier League sources said they had "grave reservations" about the potential disruption and the lack of consultation prior to the World Cup vote.
FIFA will also face opposition from other professional leagues in Europe that will be disrupted to create the eight or nine-week mid-season window required.
Blatter's comments represent his first public acknowledgement of the issues raised by FIFA's technical inspectors and ignored by the executive committee.
The inspectors' report said that playing in Qatar in June and July, when temperatures average 40C at midday, constituted a health risk to players and spectators.
FIFA's executive committee has the power to move the tournament, but Blatter said there would be no change unless Qatar, who have so far resisted a switch, requested it. (Daily Telegraph, London)