Playing the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was always going to produce a unique competition, but FIFA has now weighed in on the possibility of moving the tournament to winter, saying it is open to the change.
Fox Sports reports that FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke has clarified the governing body’s position on a winter World Cup:
Valcke said the request to move the timing of the finals must come from the hosts Qatar—unless FIFA's executive committee decides that the medical risks of playing the tournament in the extreme heat of June are too great. Temperatures in Qatar can exceed 104 degrees in June.
The 2022 tournament will be the first time the competition is held in the Middle East, making the desert heat a new challenge.
The Fox Sports report notes that the international calendar has not been set for 2019 and beyond, leading Valcke to say that “all alternatives are open.”
Heavy hitters in international soccer politics have landed on both sides of the issue.
UEFA president Michel Platini said he firmly believes the tournament should be in winter, and the Daily Mail’s Mike Dawes quotes him telling the German newspaper Bild, “Because of the heat, the World Cup will need to be held in the winter.''
When should the 2022 World Cup be played?
But CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb is not excited about the change, and Fox Sports' report quotes him saying, “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. We went through a long process regarding that."
Webb points out that the heat in Qatar was an issue from the start of its bid, and a decision was made to award the oil-rich nation with the tournament despite the extreme conditions.
The Guardian’s Owen Gibson notes that the country plans to invest £137 billion before the tournament to build air-conditioned stadiums in addition to implementing technology to “cool entire neighbourhoods.”
In addition to Webb’s protests, the world’s top leagues are unlikely to be thrilled about the scheduling challenges that will arise due to a winter World Cup taking place in the middle of their seasons.
Qatar 2022 is a long way off, but the debate over how to deal with the new challenges posed by the unorthodox host will remain in the years leading up to tournament.