FIFA President Sepp Blatter expects his executive committee to decide soon that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be switched from summer.
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 football 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 was questioned even before FIFA’s board chose it in December 2010 in a contest with the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia
However, Qatar’s World Cup organizing committee has repeatedly stated its confidence in developing stadium air-cooling technology, though the committee also said it will change plans if FIFA formally requested it.
FIFA and Blatter have gradually shifted their position from previously insisting that Qatar must ask for a change – a scenario interpreted as protecting FIFA against potential legal challenges.
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 change the tournament hosting plan.
”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 month-long tournament while recent speculation has focused on May. A January-February slot is unlikely because of a clash with the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Finding new dates could be led by the 27-member FIFA board in its duty to set the fixture schedule for international matches, when clubs must release their players to national teams.
”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 would look to the 2019-2022 cycle of seasons.