DOHA (Reuters) - FIFA has recommended that Qatar hosts a shorter World Cup in 2022 staged over the cooler months of November and December in a move sure to set world soccer’s governing body on a collision course with the major European leagues.
Asian Football Confederation head Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa told reporters in Doha on Tuesday that those dates would be put to FIFA’s executive committee to be ratified next month.
The big European leagues would prefer an April-May option to minimize disruption to their lucrative domestic programs.
“Some people have concerns, but whatever decision you’re going to take will have some questions about it,” Sheikh Salman said after an unexpectedly brief meeting of the Task Force looking at the dates.
“But... we need to look at the overall benefit of everybody,” he added, following the hour-long gathering.
Soccer World Cups have always been staged over May, June and July since the first in Uruguay in 1930.
The latest a final has been contested was July 30 -- in Uruguay in 1930 and England in 1966. The earliest final was played out on June 10 in 1934.
June and July are not viable for Qatar, where temperatures routinely exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), and the working group’s proposals would see the 2022 World Cup final contested a couple of days before Christmas.
There are no plans to reduce the size of the tournament from 32 teams or 64 matches, but the plan is for the competition to be shortened by a matter of days.
“MOST VIABLE PERIOD”
A FIFA statement said the Task Force delegates saw the late November-December option as the “most viable period”.
The working group was also exploring the option of staging the FIFA Confederations Cup -- traditionally a World Cup rehearsal -- in another AFC country during the June-July period, and instead using the FIFA Club World Cup as an operational test for Qatar in November/December 2021.
During Tuesday’s meeting a number of options had been explored including pushing the cup to early 2023, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told reporters.
“There is one solution that is coming out of this discussion which is November-December 2022... I‘m not saying that it’s the best but we don’t touch any of the qualification competitions,” he said.
If ratified in Zurich in March, the recommendations are sure to upset the European leagues, despite European soccer’s governing body saying on Tuesday it supports the task force’s choice.
“UEFA believes that, for the benefits of players and fans, the event should be played in winter,” the European body said.
“UEFA sees no major issues in rescheduling its competitions for the 2022/23 season.”
The domestic leagues are unlikely to be so gracious or accommodating.
The November-December option targets the coolest months, and avoids a clash with Ramadan and with the Winter Olympics which are slated for January-February 2022.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the meeting, Hassan Al Thawadi, the Gulf state’s 2022 Committee chief, said Qatar was on track to complete all projects related to the event and is ready to accept the final decision from FIFA with regards to the timing.
“We are committed to whatever the World Cup committee decides and we will deliver an amazing World Cup,” he said.
“There are five stadiums at different stages of construction, the infrastructure work is ongoing... it is seven years (away) but I‘m very confident in saying that we are actually on track,” al-Thawdi added, noting that the budget was also “on track”.
European clubs demanded compensation if FIFA stages the 2022 World Cup in November and December and world players’ union FIFPro said any discussion over shortening the tournament should involve its members.
“For the soccer family, the rescheduling of the FIFA World Cup 2022 presents a difficult and challenging task,” Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman of the European Clubs’ Association (ECA), said in a statement.
”All match calendars across the world will have to accommodate such a tournament in 2022/23, which requires everyone’s willingness to compromise.
”European clubs and leagues cannot be expected to bear the costs for such rescheduling. We expect the clubs to be compensated for the damage that a final decision would cause.”
Editing by Ossian Shine and Ed Osmond