The 2022 World Cup in Qatar should take place in November and December, a Fifa taskforce has recommended.
Key football officials met in Doha to discuss a number of options following fears a summer event would endanger the health of players and fans.
Summer temperatures in Qatar can exceed 40C while those in November and December drop to around 25C.
Tuesday’s recommendation is expected to be ratified by Fifa’s executive committee in Zurich on 19 and 20 March.
Taskforce chief Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa also recommended that the 2022 tournament should be shortened by a few days.
There has already been speculation that the tournament could start on 26 November and end on 23 December.
However, Fifa has already said there are no plans to reduce the size of the tournament from 32 teams or 64 matches.
The other dates under consideration were May and January-February.
Fifa said a number of options had been discussed but felt that November-December was the best one because:
- A January-February tournament would clash with Winter Olympics
- The month of Ramadan begins on 2 April in 2022
- Hot conditions prevail from May to September in Qatar
Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke said there were “pros and cons” for all options but said the “one solution” was November and December.
Sheikh Salman added: “We are very pleased that, after careful consideration of the various opinions and detailed discussions with all stakeholders, we have identified what we believe to be the best solution for the 2018-2024 international match calendar and football in general.”
What about a final on 23 December?
Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce said moving the World Cup to the winter was “common sense” but that a final on 23 December would be too close to Christmas and the traditional festive matches.
“That’s the only reservation I would have and I would like it a week earlier,” said Boyce. “But I want to wait until the Fifa executive committee meeting to hear all the details about the dates.”
Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said he would do all it could to protect the traditional festive period for club matches.
That stance was echoed by Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the English Premier League. “We’ve got to make sure we keep the Christmas and New year programme intact,” he said.
What will happen now?
BBC Radio 5 live’s sports news correspondent Richard Conway said Europe’s leading leagues and clubs would be disappointed after losing “this argument” but indicated the row over dates would rumble on.
“It’s not the end of the story by a long way, but organisers will be hopeful this is the start perhaps of building and planning for the 2022 World Cup for real,” he added.
Is a winter World Cup workable?
Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce said a tournament in November and December would “cause a lot of disruption” but added: “It is eight years away and people should have enough time to make it work.”
However, Peter Coates, chairman of English Premier League side Stoke City, described the situation as a “disaster”.
He told BBC Radio 5 live: “The only saving grace is that we don’t have to think about it for a long time. It couldn’t be more disruptive.”
FA chairman Greg Dyke said the best option would be to move the World Cup from Qatar but that November-December was “the best of the bad options”.
What will impact be on British game?
English football’s Premier League strongly opposed a winter tournament given the disruption it would cause to the title run-in and the hole it would create in the schedules of its broadcast partners.
A World Cup in November and December also affects the Football League, the FA Cup and League Cup.
League and cup competitions in Scotland may also face disruption, regardless of whether the national team qualifies for the tournament with players being called up for other international teams.
Domestic leagues in Wales and Northern Ireland are less likely to be affected with the vast majority of players non-internationals.
And the rest of Europe?
Many of Europe’s top leagues wanted an April-May solution to minimise disruption to their domestic programmes, not to mention the impact on the Champions League and Europa League.
According to English Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, European leagues and clubs will “suffer the most”.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman of the European Clubs Association, added that European clubs and leagues cannot be expected to bear the costs for any rescheduling.
“We expect the clubs to be compensated for the damage that a final decision would cause,” said the German.
However, European governing body Uefa came out in support of the taskforce, insisting it “sees no major issues in rescheduling its competitions for the 2022/23 season”.
What about the rest of the world?
African officials agree with the taskforce, even though they will almost certainly have to move the 2023 African Cup of Nations from its January-February slot.
Confederation of African Football’s director of communications Junior Binyam said it was backing the proposal “100%”.
It’s likely to be a similar tale with the Asian Football Confederation, given Sheikh Salman is president of that particular body
As for North America, the Major League Soccer season will be unaffected given it runs from March until October.
So what are temperatures like in Qatar?
Average temperatures in November are around 29C, dropping to around 25C by mid-December, slightly cooler than the 35C averages in May.
In June and July, those numbers increase significantly, regularly exceeding 40C.
Organisers planned to use air-cooling technology they claim lowers temperatures within grounds to about 23C.
Source: BBC Sport
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