Blatter: FIFA set to move 2022 WCup from summer

FIFA President Sepp Blatter expects his executive committee to

decide soon on a switch that will shift the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

to another season to avoid the searing summer heat.

Blatter told The Associated Press on Sunday that an Oct. 3-4

meeting in Zurich should approve the change, and begin consultation

on the best time for Qatar to host the tournament.

”I would be very much surprised, more than surprised, if the

ExCo will not accept the principle you cannot play in summer in

Qatar,” Blatter said in an interview on the sidelines of the

annual charity soccer tournament in his home village. ”What will

be following, this would be then decided later.”

Blatter said consultations would involve leagues, clubs,

national associations and players, through their international

union FIFPro, but he set no timetable.

Qatar’s suitability in June and July, when temperatures

routinely rise above 104 degrees, was questioned even before FIFA’s

board awarded it the tournament in December 2010. Qatar defeated

bids from the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

However, the 2022 World Cup organizing committee has stated its

confidence in developing stadium air-cooling technology, intended

to reduce field-level temperatures to 81 degrees. Qatari officials

also repeatedly said they will change plans if FIFA requested

it.

Blatter and soccer’s governing body have gradually shifted their

position from insisting that Qatar must ask for a change – a

scenario interpreted as protecting FIFA against potential legal

challenges. FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told reporters in

March that the governing body would not have prompted discussion

about change without being sure of its legal position.

Now, some of the same FIFA board members who helped choose Qatar

– in a decisive 14-8 vote over the U.S. – are set to switch the

tournament calendar.

”Those that have taken the decision at the time, they knew

there is problems with the heat. They knew it, because it was in

the (technical) report,” Blatter said. ”It was wrong to say, `Now

we have to play in summer,’ because in summer you cannot play

there.”

”Therefore the ExCo now shall take the decision – and they will

take it – that in summer you can’t play in Qatar.”

Blatter has previously suggested November as a possible start

for the monthlong tournament while recent speculation has focused

on May. A January-February slot is unlikely because of a clash with

the 2022 Winter Olympics.

”What will be the ongoing situation with such a decision, we

have to look on the international calendar,” Blatter said. ”We

have to look if and how it is possible, when we don’t play in

summer, when is the best time to play in winter?”

The calendar is currently set through 2018, and the next round

of discussions will look to the 2019-2022 cycle of seasons.

Wealthy European clubs and leagues, including the Premier League

and Bundesliga, will likely be the biggest critics of any threat to

schedule the 2022 World Cup during their traditional August-May

season.

Blatter met Sunday with Michel Platini, the president of

European soccer’s governing body. He will discuss FIFA business

with his 54 member federations during mid-September meetings in

Dubrovnik, Croatia.

”He asked me to give him some items to be discussed there,”

Blatter said of the ”long” session with Platini, his one-time

protege and potential rival for the FIFA presidency in 2015.

Platini has confirmed he voted for Qatar, but supports a switch

from summer.

U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati helped lead the

American bid in 2010 and will now contribute to key decisions on

Qatar’s hosting as a member of the FIFA executive committee since

May.