FIFA to face pressure for shortened winter World Cup in Qatar
FIFA will come under pressure on Tuesday to agree to a shortened World Cup in 2022 in compensation for moving the tournament in Qatar to the winter.
The final meeting of the 2022 task force will be held in Doha on Tuesday when recommendations on the timing of the World Cup are expected to confirm a November/December tournament in order to avoid the searing heat of the summer.
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore is among those on the task force and at its last meeting argued forcefully for a shortened World Cup to minimise disruptions to the clubs and leagues, with a shorter preparation period beforehand and fewer international dates that season.
One task force member, who wished to remain anonymous, told Press Association Sport: "It is almost certain that November/December will be agreed but the trade-offs will be for a cut in the length of the World Cup and the preparation period beforehand.
"The leagues have been forceful in arguing that you only need two weeks’ preparation beforehand rather than the usual three or four, and that the tournament does not need to be as long as the 32 days it was in Brazil.
"The players from northern hemisphere clubs – which is the majority – will be fresher than usual and the logistics of Qatar mean it will be less than two hours’ drive to every stadium so there will be no travel days for teams.
"For example you probably don’t need five days between the semi-final and final – 72 hours should be long enough."
Britain’s FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce favours a January/February option but accepted that would clash with the Winter Olympics, and said the important thing was to agree to play the tournament in the winter.
Boyce, who sits on FIFA’s executive committee that will have to ratify the task force recommendations, told Press Association Sport: "If it’s going to be in Qatar then let’s agree on a date in the winter and look forward to a wonderful World Cup there because you cannot possibly take people there to play it in the summer.
"My personal preference would be for January/February but then you have problems with the Olympics so if it has to be in November/December then so be it."
Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, the Asian confederation president from Bahrain who is chairing the task force, has made no secret of the fact that November/December remains FIFA’s choice.
He said at the end of January: "The matter is resolved. The period best suited for hosting the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be in November and December because for sure it needs to be played in the winter."
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, who is effectively running the process of choosing the dates, described November/December in Qatar as "perfect for playing football".
Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the Chilean who led FIFA’s World Cup bid inspection team that warned of the high summer temperatures in Qatar, says there is "no perfect solution".
He said: "June/July is impossible. November/December is good for the weather but it means you will have to stop for 50 to 60 days around 50 professional leagues all over the world. That’s a lot.
"In January and February there is a lot of trouble with the IOC (Winter Olympics clash) and the American Superbowl, as well as British traditions on Boxing Day and New Year.
"In May there is no clash but the weather is not so nice, while it April it is Ramadan. I don’t see a perfect solution."
The European Clubs’ Association has put forward its own proposal for a May/June tournament but figures with the organisation privately admit it has little if any chance of success.
The Premier League issued a statement saying: "The 2022 Fifa World Cup was bid for and awarded to Qatar as a summer tournament. The prospect of a winter World Cup is neither workable nor desirable for European domestic football."