Fifa has recommended that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar be moved to the cooler months of November and December following a three-day meeting of its task force in Doha.
The football’s governing body says the taskforce chose “the most viable period” for the showpiece upon consideration of some salient factors.
Summer temperatures in Qatar can exceed 40C and such baking effect could drop to around 25C in November and December, similar to conditions played in recent World Cup finals.
The proposal will be on the agenda for the Fifa executive committee (ExCo) meeting in Zurich on 19 and 20 March.
Part of the discussions involved separate move that the 2022 tournament be shortened by a few days, with “match schedule and number of venues to be used for the Qatar World Cup” expected to serve as a determining factor.
Fifa has already ruled out the likelihood of reducing the size of the tournament from 32 teams or 64 matches.
Speculation has been rife that the 22nd edition of the showpiece could start on 26 November and end on 23 December.
Key football officials met in Doha to thrash out a number of alternative dates to a June or July World Cup in quarter, following calls for change due to concerns about extreme summer temperatures in the Gulf state.
May and January- February were the other dates deliberated upon, but Fifa has sought to avoid a clash with the 2022 Winter Olympics, stating: “the two bidding cities- Almaty (Kazakhstan) and Beijing (China PR) – pledged recently to host the winter games from 4 to 20 February 2022.”
It felt that November-December was the only suitable option because: “the month of Ramadan begins on 2 April in 2022; and that consistently hot conditions prevail from May to September in Qatar.”
The Fifa statement read inter alia: “The only remaining effective option is the November/December window. For legal reasons, the 22nd edition of the FIFA World Cup must be played within the calendar year 2022.”
Chairman of the Fifa taskforce, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, 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.
“It was a challenging task and I want to thank all members of the football community for their productive input and constructiveness in helping to find a solution that we believe can work for everyone.”
Which way forward?
A winter World Cup understandably has no significant effect on the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), which usually is on recess in the proposed months (end-November/end-December).
But the date change has been viewed as a disruption to Europe’s multi-billion dollar domestic leagues and the Uefa Champions League.
The dates recommended has triggered compensation tussle with Europe’s powerful clubs, which prefers an April-May option, seeking for reimbursement for hitches caused to their domestic football.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman of the European Clubs Association, in a statement released in response to the switch, said the decision by the Fifa taskforce “does not come as a surprise.”
“However, the European clubs and leagues cannot be expected to bear the costs for such rescheduling. We expect the clubs to be compensated for the damage tha a final decision would cause,” Rummenigge added.
A recent statement from the English Premier League said: “The 2022 World Cup was bid for an awarded to Qatar as a summer tournament.
“The prospect of a winter World Cup is neither workable nor desirable for European domestic football.”
But one perceived loophole to such argument is Uefa’s concordance with the six-month long consultation process as well as Tuesday’s recommendation.
The winter World Cup would also clash with the NFL and NBA seasons in the United States.
Head of the 2022 World Cup Local Organising Committee (LOC), Hassan Al Thawadi, attended Tuesday’s meeting on an observer basis. Qatar has already said it is capable of hosting the tournament on whichever date Fifa finally chooses.
Fed up with corruption allegations in the wake of Fifa’s controversial decision to host the 2022 finals in the tiny Gulf state, Qatar have began developing air cooling technology (see picture above) to help lower temperatures within grounds if the tournament was to take place in the summer.