FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke has confirmed that playing the 2022 World Cup in Qatar during the winter is a possibility.
Valcke said the request to move the timing of the finals must come from the hosts Qatar – unless FIFA’s executive committee decides that the medical risks of playing the tournament in the extreme heat of June are too great. Temperatures in Qatar can exceed 104 degrees in June.
UEFA president Michel Platini has reiterated his call to move the Qatar tournament to winter, but his counterpart at the CONCACAF federation of countries in north and central America and the Caribbean insists it should remain in the summer.
Valcke said the fact the international calendar had not been fixed beyond 2018 made moving the 2022 finals possible, but that it would need the agreement of all of football – and so far the Premier League have been fiercely opposed to any interruption of the domestic season.
Speaking in Edinburgh after the International FA Board meeting, Valcke said: "Qatar has to tell us, ‘we want to move the World Cup from summer to winter’. I can tell you there is no working group within FIFA thinking and working on what it means to move the World Cup from summer to winter for the time being.
"The international calendar has been agreed for 2015-2018, meaning that we kept open all potential for period 2019 to 2022. We have time. We in FIFA have never said never, we have just said we are waiting for you [Qatar] to officially ask FIFA to look at the potential to move the World Cup from summer to winter – and that has not happened yet."
"Qatar is perfectly aware and 2014 is not the deadline – it can be even in 2015. The most important thing is to make sure work with all stakeholders and make sure there is full agreement with all parties, leagues, clubs, and we would have to find eight weeks in the mid-season to play the World Cup."
Valcke said FIFA’s executive committee would only make a unilateral decision if there was strong medical evidence in favor of a change.
He added: "The FIFA ExCo has the power to make decisions and if at the FIFA ExCo this issue starts to be a real point for discussion then why not, and then again maybe the FIFA ExCo will say based on medical reports or whatever we really have to look at playing the World Cup not in summer, but in winter.
"I am not saying that the case is closed, but what I’m saying is as long as we have not fixed the international calendar all alternatives are open. I think it would be good to have a final decision about when this World Cup will be played and have an agreement between all the football family but it’s in 2022, nine years and we have two World Cups to organize in Brazil and Russia, so there is some time."
CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb opposes any move to change the timing, however.
He said: "Historically, the World Cup is always played in June and I would definitely like the World Cup to be played in June, we accepted it. We went through a long process regarding that. We all knew the World Cup was going to be played in June and July and as far as I am concerned, that’s accepted."