UEFA members back winter World Cup in Qatar

European soccer failed to reach consensus on Thursday in the

intensifying debate on switching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from

summer to winter.

Though UEFA’s 54 member countries on Wednesday supported the

change which threatens upheaval in soccer’s historic seasonal

calendar, its influential policy advisory body has refused to agree

to anything before detailed consultation with FIFA.

Clubs, leagues and players’ unions which join national

federations in the Professional Football Strategy Council declined

to give UEFA President Michel Platini approval for the change,

which FIFA President Sepp Blatter says his board should decide on

next month.

”It’s not an agreement,” Theo van Seggelen, secretary general

of the FIFPro group of unions, told The Associated Press after the

strategy panel discussion. ”That has to be agreed by FIFA and we

want to be involved in the discussion.”

Van Seggelen said the summer heat in Qatar was the most

important of several unanswered questions for FIFPro.

One day earlier, UEFA members gave Platini a mandate to back the

FIFA move, and prefer to play in January in Qatar.

Platini must weigh how to represent accurately the conflicting

views within his soccer family when he leads an eight-strong UEFA

delegation at the 27-member FIFA executive committee session in

Zurich on Oct. 3-4.

Blatter, who is an International Olympic Committee member, has

suggested a November 2022 kickoff, which would avoid impact on the

Winter Games scheduled in mid-February.

In a statement on Thursday, the IOC said it was aware of the

Qatar discussion.

”We are confident that FIFA will discuss the dates with us so

as to coordinate them and avoid any effect on the Winter Games,”

the Olympic body said.

Van Seggelen strongly opposes a summer World Cup in Qatar,

though a move to winter could raise health issues if it forced

hundreds of clubs to alter league calendars and play through the

hot southern European summer.

”We will not play in Qatar but also not play in other (hot)

places, so for us it’s simple,” he said. ”We don’t play in the

heat because it’s not in compliance with our policy.”

Dutch league official Frank Rutten, one of four European

Professional Football Leagues delegates on the UEFA panel, said he

was ”satisfied with the outcome” of the two-hour session.

”We only say that the decision should be made only after proper

consultation,” Rutten said.

Wealthy European leagues and the Champions League would face

most disruption in their traditional August-to-May season.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman of the European Club Association

and Champions League winner Bayern Munich, attended Thursday’s

meeting after suggesting this week that April 2022 was a better

option for Qatar.

The clubs, league and unions have raised concerns about knock-on

effects, including coordinating promotion and relegation places

with lower divisions and depriving clubs of income during a general

shutdown for the World Cup period.

”We have also responsibility for our other players because

national team players are only 2 percent of our members,” Van

Seggelen said. ”Whatever happens, (it should be) done in a way

that also the other players are protected financially.”

Amid an intensifying debate since the December 2010 hosting

vote, Qatari World Cup organizers have never requested a change.

They have consistently said they can stage a June-July tournament

by developing air-cooling technology to lower temperatures in

stadiums and training areas to around 81 degrees.

UEFA members said on Wednesday their main concern was the

uncomfortable heat for fans, officials and workers operating

outside the stadiums.

FIFPro delegate Bobby Barnes said there was a ”strong

movement” toward wanting Qatar to host the World Cup, but a winter

tournament was not yet inevitable.

”People are unified that a summer World Cup is increasingly

unlikely – whether that means a change in venue or a change in

scheduling is still to be discussed,” he told the AP.

Van Seggelen and Barnes are scheduled to meet Blatter in Zurich

on Monday when they plan to also raise concerns about hot

temperatures at some 2014 World Cup matches in Brazil.

”I don’t understand, personally, that we have nine years,” Van

Seggelen said about the rush to alter preparations for the 2022

World Cup. ”Let’s first see what happens in Brazil.”

Follow Graham Dunbar at https://twitter.com/gdunbarap