FIFA meets to debate winter 2022 World Cup
ZURICH (AP) — FIFA opened a two-day board meeting Thursday that will discuss whether to move the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from the traditional summer dates.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has been pushing for a switch but will likely meet opposition from Europe and the United States. They want FIFA to consult widely before agreeing to a change from the usual June-July slot to avoid the extreme heat in the tiny desert nation.
Officials from Asian and African confederations also said Thursday they have not yet talked formally about Blatter’s proposed switch.
“We haven’t had that discussion in (Africa),” FIFA board member Hany Abo Rida of Egypt told The Associated Press. “We’re waiting to hear the explanation from the FIFA executive.”
Blatter has raised the possibility of starting the tournament in November, while UEFA President Michel Platini prefers January.
A FIFA-appointed task force to study the potential impact of a change could be a compromise solution when the board examines the issue on Friday.
Blatter said in August he would be “very much surprised, more than surprised” if this board meeting did not reject the idea of playing the World Cup in the Qatari summer.
FIFA has said the 27-member executive committee will also consider the human rights of migrant workers involved in building stadiums, transport links and hotels in Qatar for the World Cup.
The Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation is trying to step up pressure on FIFA, reminding Blatter that his organization failed in a November 2011 pledge to press Qatari authorities to improve working conditions and legal protection for up to 1.2 foreign workers in the tiny emirate.
The Asian Football Confederation is also waiting to start formal talks on its position regarding the 2022 World Cup, general secretary Alex Soosay said Thursday.
European football leaders have been consulted and given cautious support for a switch to winter, preferring January-February.
At a UEFA meeting in Croatia last month, the 54 member countries handed Platini a mandate to support a move to winter, though many see major problems if FIFA ultimately decides on Blatter’s suggestion of a November-December tournament.
Stronger opposition comes from Europe’s influential leagues, clubs and players’ unions. They have urged FIFA to take more time and insist on being consulted. England’s Premier League has predicted chaos in trying to reorganize its schedules around a winter World Cup.
FIFA and Blatter have made a U-turn after spending two years insisting change was possible only if Qatar organizers themselves asked to move the dates.
On Wednesday, the Qatari organizing committee — which is not represented on the FIFA board — repeated its desire to host the tournament in the summer, though is willing to meet FIFA’s wishes.
“If the international football community reaches a consensus to move the event to an alternate date, we are able to accommodate that change,” the Qatar 2022 committee said in a statement.