World soccer's governing body FIFA has begun a two-day execuctive committee meeting in Switzerland on whether to schedule the 2022 World Cup in the winter months, rather than stage it during the traditional June-July period. The change is being proposed out of concern that summer temperatures in the host nation, Qatar, regularly rise above 100 degrees, but is opposed by the influential European professional leagues whose seasons would be disrupted by a six-week winter break.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has been pushing for a switch, but he faces opposition from northern hemisphere federations who are demanding broad consultation before agreeing to any change. Blatter is reportedly in favor of scheduling the tournament for November and December — a period when temperatures in Qatar average in the mid 70s to lower 80s.
Holding the tournament during those months would also mean it would not directly clash with the Winter Olympics, which are usually held in February.
Officials from Asian and African confederations told The Associated Press they have not yet talked formally about Blatter's proposed switch.
The proposed switch has been the focus of fierce behind-the-scenes politicking, Al Jazeera's Lee Wellings reported Thursday from Zurich.
Holding the World Cup in November and December would force changes in he schedule of European domestic leagues and the pan-European Champions League, in which the majority of the world's top players play their pro soccer.
Despite the concerns, the organizers of the World Cup in Qatar have said they would have the technology in place, including carbon-neutral, air-cooled stadiums, to deal with the heat. Earlier this year, the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee said in a statement that "we are ready to host the World Cup in summer or winter," while adding "our planning isn't affected either way."
Sebastian Coe, who was the head of the organizing committee for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, told Al Jazeera’s Rahul Pathak that issues such as climate shouldn't stop Qatar from bidding for and hosting World Cups or Olympics.
"We can't just sort of sit here over the next 20 years and say only a relatively few, handful of countries are in a position to host great sporting events," Coe said. "And we should also recognize that in building that global capacity, we are going to confront challenges — sometimes they're climatic, sometimes they'll be political, sometimes they'll be cultural and sometimes social."
The World Cup is expected to cost Qatar about $220 billion — a figure that includes $140 billion for transport infrastructure, including new roads, a brand-new airport and new rail and metro systems. About $4 billion will go toward building nine new stadiums and upgrading three existing ones while another $17 billion will be spent on accommodations and preparations for an estimated 90,000 hotel rooms that will be ready by the time the tournament gets underway in nine years.
It is estimated that Qatar will have to employ nearly 1 million migrant workers to complete the massive construction projects. Although the venues have yet to be built, recent allegations over the working conditions of migrant laborers doing construction work prompted the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee responded to issue a statement saying, "The health, safety, well-being and dignity of every worker is of the utmost important and we are committed to ensuring that the World Cup serves as a catalyst towards creating sustainable improvements to the lives of all workers in Qatar." FIFA has said the executive committee meeting would also consider the rights and protections that will be put in place for laborers building Wolrd Cup infrastructure.