FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke on Saturday confirmed the 2022 World Cup in Qatar could be moved to the winter if research shows holding the tournament in the region’s intense summer heat would be dangerous for players.
Since being awarded the right to host the event, Qatar’s tournament organisers have had to deal with a barrage of questions about the suitability of staging the World Cup in searing June and July temperatures, which can reach up to 50C.
FIFA, the game’s world governing body, had previously suggested that Qatar would have to make the request to move the tournament.
But speaking at the International Football Association Board meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, Valcke became the first senior FIFA official to admit that the event could be moved if his organisation received strong medical advice that it needed to do so.
“The FIFA ExCo has the power to make decisions and if at the FIFA ExCo this issue starts to be a real point for discussion then why not, and then again maybe the FIFA ExCo will say based on medical reports or whatever we really have to look at playing the World Cup not in summer, but in winter,” he said.
“I am not saying that the case is closed, but what I’m saying is as long as we have not fixed the international calendar all alternatives are open.”
UEFA president Michel Platini has reiterated his call to move the Qatar tournament to winter and Valcke said the fact the international calendar had not been fixed beyond 2018 made moving the 2022 finals possible.
“Qatar has to tell us, ‘we want to move the World Cup from summer to winter’,” Valcke said.
“I can tell you there is no working group within FIFA thinking and working on what it means to move the World Cup from summer to winter for the time being.
“The international calendar has been agreed for 2015-2018, meaning that we kept open all potential for period 2019 to 2022. We have time.
“We in FIFA have just said we are waiting for you (Qatar) to officially ask FIFA to look at the potential to move the World Cup from summer to winter – and that has not happened yet.”
Valcke also said that it would need the agreement of all of football, and so far the Premier League have been fiercely opposed to any interruption of the domestic season.
“Qatar is perfectly aware and 2014 is not the deadline. It can be even in 2015,” Valcke added.
“The most important thing is to make sure work with all stakeholders and make sure there is full agreement with all parties, leagues, clubs, and we would have to find eight weeks in the mid-season to play the World Cup.”
[Image via Agence France-Presse]