We’re not in Qatar any more: A worker clears snow from the roof of the Veltins-Arena soccer stadium in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, just before Christmas (AP Photo).
It figures that as the East Coast continues to dig out from its winter weather woes (I’m assuming MLS would be done by now, even if it were to move to a fall through spring schedule) and even usually temperate England debates (yet again) a winter break from soccer that there are even more voices suggesting the 2022 World Cup be moved from the scorching summer months in Qatar. There are also some notable opponents, too, however, so perhaps it’s for the best we’ve got a dozen years to figure this one out.
Here’s more from the Associated Press:
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The head of the Asian Football Confederation supports moving the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to the winter months to avoid the desert heat, but European clubs AC Milan and Barcelona oppose the move.
Mohamed bin Hammam, a Qatari national who is also a FIFA executive committee member, said Tuesday a winter tournament would ensure players would be in better shape and wouldn’t be exhausted after completing a grueling season that can run up to 60 games.
Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup this month despite concerns over temperatures which routinely exceed 104 degrees. Soon after it beat out the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea for the competition, a growing list of soccer executives began calling for moving the tournament to January when it is much cooler in Qatar.
FIFA executive committee member Franz Beckenbauer was the first to suggest the idea, and he was followed by UEFA president Michel Platini. FIFA president Sepp Blatter said it was worthy studying and FIFPro, which represents professional soccer players worldwide, said the event “must be held in winter.”
But the big soccer clubs remain unconvinced. They’re reluctant to change the international calendar and concerned over a loss of revenue from breaking up the season.
“It would be very difficult today to see the top five European leagues change their calendar in order to accommodate the World Cup in January,” AC Milan director Umberto Gandini said on the sidelines of the two-day Globe Soccer conference in Dubai.
“We have traditions. We have business in place. We have contracts in place,” he said. “It would be complicated. I’m not saying it’s not possible but it would require a lot of
negotiations, a lot of discussions and it would probably affect not only 2022 but 2021 as
Gandini and Barcelona President Sandro Rosell also downplayed concerns about the heat, noting several previous World Cup tournaments were played in conditions similar to those of Qatar in the summer.
Bin Hammam agreed Qatar would have no problem organizing the 2022 World Cup in July. But moving the tournament to the cooler winter months would be better for the players, he said.
“If the competition were held in June and July, it will perfectly organized by the host,” Bin
Hammam said. “If the competition would be moved to January, it will be a sort of win-win
situation for all the parties.”
Earlier this month, Blatter and general secretary Jerome Valcke said moving the Qatar matches to winter was worth considering. It could protect players from heat and provide flexibility for future bid cities.
Valcke said switching the schedule would make it possible for a wider range of countries to bid for the World Cup — which traditionally takes places in June and July — in the future.
Still, he said it’s “not so easy” to stage a winter World Cup since it would require changing the international calendar — including possibly the year before and after the 2022 tournament — and getting the support of domestic leagues and national federations.
Valcke said Qatar hasn’t formally requested changing the timing of the tournament, and bid officials have not said anything publicly about whether they would support such a move. Until now, Qatar has only promised FIFA that stadiums, training venues and areas for fans to party will be cooled with solar-powered air conditioning.