ZURICH (AP) — FIFA's ruling board met Friday for talks on whether to switch the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from the hot summer months.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter was expected to announce that a task force will consult soccer leaders and broadcasters worldwide and report back to his executive committee within months. Such an agreement would fall short of Blatter's stated plan to immediately rule out playing the World Cup in the usual June-July period. He suggests starting the tournament in November.
Still, the momentum to move FIFA's showcase event appears unstoppable because of the searing summer heat in the tiny desert nation. Blatter's board was also weighing a response to Qatar's treatment of migrant workers after reported deaths and human rights abuses connected with World Cup construction projects.
The executive committee includes 13 men who took part in the December 2010 vote which awarded the World Cup to Qatar. The gas-rich emirate beat the United States 14-8 in the final vote despite warnings that the 104 degree temperatures in June and July posed a health risk to players and spectators.
Qatar has twice hosted major soccer tournaments but neither was played in June or July. The 2011 Asian Cup was played in January, the month preferred by European body UEFA and its president Michel Platini.
In 1995, Qatar staged the Under-20 World Cup in April. A spring 2022 tournament has been proposed by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, head of the European clubs' association. Blatter has pushed FIFA in recent months toward moving the 2022 World Cup dates after spending two years insisting that Qatari officials first had to ask for a change.
The Qatar organizing committee insists it can stage a safe tournament in June-July by using air-cooling technology. However, Qatar says it would comply if FIFA reaches a consensus for change. Any switch of the dates could lead to legal challenges from the losing bidders, European leagues and broadcasters that bought rights based on a June-July event.
The U.S. is FIFA's most lucrative territory, and November or January dates would clash with the NFL season. Fox, Telemundo — owned by NBC Universal — and Futbol de Primera Radio agreed to pay a combined $1.2 billion in October 2011 to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
FIFA has ruled out compensating losing bidders after 2022 candidate Australia said it wanted to recoup its publicly funded $40.6 million campaign costs. FIFA gets around 90 percent of its revenue from the World Cup. It earned $3.655 billion from commercial deals tied to the 2010 tournament in South Africa.