FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke has announced that the 2022 World Cup will not be played in the summer months of June and July, confessing to Radio France that the tournament will almost certainly take place in the winter.
Sky Sports tweeted the news:
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke: 2022 World Cup in Qatar will not be held in June & July #SSN— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) January 8, 2014
Valcke: I think it will be held between November 15 and January 15 at the latest - more on this breaking story on #SSN— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) January 8, 2014
However, FIFA vice president Jim Boyce has quickly denied the news in a confusing U-turn that only brings embarrassment to the governing body:
FIFA vice president Jim Boyce shocked by Valcke statement as decision yet to be made by FIFA executive committee #SSN— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) January 8, 2014
Boyce: As it stands it remains in the summer with no decision expected until end of 2014 or March 2015 #SSN— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) January 8, 2014
The immense summer heat in Qatar, the tournament's host nation, appears to have prompted the change nearly a decade before the event.
Summer temperatures in Qatar can rise above 120 degrees on a regular basis, according to Sky News, causing potential health issues for both the players and those attending the international showcase. The report states temperatures are more manageable (around 75 degrees) in winter.
Valcke confirmed these concerns during an interview with Radio France. BBC Sport provides his full quotes:
The dates for the World Cup (in Qatar) will not be June-July.
If you play between 15 November and the end of December that's the time when the weather conditions are best, when you can play in temperatures equivalent to a warm spring season in Europe, averaging 25 degrees. That would be perfect for playing football.
What do you think of the decision?
The decision would cause a midseason disruption for many domestic leagues around the globe, including the popular European leagues. All clubs would need to take a month off in order to fit the World Cup into an already busy schedule.
One person to raise concerns about the situation was Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore.
He spoke out to Sky Sports about the executive committee altering the international calendar, especially since they should have understood the temperature issues.
Of course (moving to winter is) extremely difficult, nigh on impossible in our view.
Where they award the summer World Cup to is entirely the FIFA executive committee's decision, entirely their decision, not our business.
The international football calendar is one that has to be consulted through; it is not something FIFA can just decide because the whole of world football has an interest in that.
The 2022 World Cup is scheduled to become the first one held in the Middle East. Qatar beat the United States in the final round of voting to earn the opportunity to host the tournament, which is a massive international event.
Obviously, after making that initial decision, the FIFA executive committee backed itself into a no-win situation leading up to the latest call.
The board was either going to infuriate those who believed playing in the brutal summer heat would disrupt the event for both players and fans or enrage league executives like Scudamore, who will have to plan an entire campaign around the change.
Ben Smith of BBC Sport suggests the decision not to play the World Cup during the summer shouldn't come as a major surprise, as Sepp Blatter previously confirmed that:
Sepp Blatter has previously said the 2022 World Cup will be held in November-December.— Ben Smith (@BenSmithBBC) January 8, 2014
Since players already deal with a jam-packed schedule between club and international duty, plenty of disruptions can be expected during the season.
The executive committee had to make a decision, knowing backlash was likely regardless of the choice it made. FIFA probably hopes the near decade between its vote and the actual tournament allows the concerns to fade.
Only time will tell if that's the case.