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
”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
”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