UEFA 'yes' to winter World Cup in Qatar
The prospect of a winter World Cup being staged in Qatar in 2022 moved a significant step closer 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, Northern Ireland'ss 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 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 TV deals.
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.
With temperatures in the summer reaching the high 30s, Fifa's medical guidelines categorise the risk of playing at that temperature as "extreme."
Switching to either January/February or November/December is now regarded as the probable outcome.
Uefa's meeting in Dubrovnik concludes today and president Michel Platini is expected to clarify its stance in favour of a switch and stress the need for Fifa to consult with all parties before settling on the dates.
"There are still nine years to go and Fifa should sit down and find a solution that would cause the minimum disruption to football, he said." ©Independent News Service)