EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — FIFA conceded for the first time Saturday that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar could be moved to winter if medical evidence showed that playing in the intense summer heat would be dangerous.
FIFA has previously insisted that Qatar would have to make the request to move the tournament, while the tiny emirate has placed responsibility on world football's governing body to make the call. In a sign that the impasse could be ending, FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke now says the executive committee could decide on the shift to winter if the June temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) are deemed dangerous.
"Maybe the FIFA Ex-Co will say based on medical report or whatever we really have to look at playing the World Cup not in summer but in winter," Valcke said. "As long as we have not fixed the international calendar, all alternatives are open," he added. "It's in 2022, nine years and we have two World Cups to organize in Brazil and Russia. So there is some time."
Valcke is sure that moving the tournament would not open up FIFA to legal challenges from the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia, who lost out to Qatar in the 2010 vote. "Would you think we would open a discussion if we are not sure there would be no legal challenge to do so?" Valcke asked.
While Qatar unexpectedly landed the 2022 showpiece tournament with plans for air-conditioned stadiums, FIFA President Sepp Blatter has acknowledged that the team's supporters could struggle to cope with the heat away from the venues in June.
UEFA President Michel Platini has advocated taking decisive action and moving the Qatar tournament to the cooler winter months, telling German newspaper Bild on Saturday that the summer heat would be "unbearable" for fans and players.
But the European football chief's view is opposed by Jeffrey Webb, president of CONCACAF, which governs football in North and Central America and the Caribbean. "Historically, the World Cup is always played in June and I would definitely like the World Cup to be played in June, we accepted it," Webb said. "We went through a long process regarding that."
Moving the World Cup to winter would punch a hole in the European club season as it now stands, with the Premier League firmly opposed to their competition being split in 2022. "As long as we have not fixed the international calendar (for 2019 to '22) all alternatives are open," Valcke said.
"The most important thing is to make sure (we) 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," he added after a meeting of football's rule-makers in the Scottish capital Edinburgh.
Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris