Sports

FIFA official says Qatar World Cup will move to winter

But soccer's international governing body denies that an official decision has been made

A visual representation for a planned stadium to be built for the 2022 World Cup in Lusail City, Qatar.
Qatar2022/Getty

The 2022 World Cup that will take place in Qatar will not be held in the usual June and July, FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke said Wednesday in an apparently unauthorized comment to France Inter Radio.

"Frankly, I think it will happen between the fifteenth of November and January fifteenth at the latest," Valcke said. "That is when the weather is more favorable. It's more like springtime in Europe."

Valcke did not say whether he favored a World Cup in the winter of 2021-22 or 2022-23, but the deciding factor could be the timing of the Winter Olympics in early 2022.

FIFA told Al Jazeera in an emailed statement, however, that "no decision will be taken before the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil as agreed by the FIFA Executive Committee."

"As the event will not be played until 8 years' time the consultation process will not be rushed."

The idea of moving the Middle East's first World Cup to the cooler winter months arose out of concern for the health and safety of both players and fans alike, as well as out of environmental concerns associated with the Qatar organizing committee's ambitious stadium cooling plans.

Average high temperatures in Qatar's summer months rise above 106 degrees Fahrenheit.

Though many players favor a first-ever winter World Cup, European clubs that would lose their top players for several weeks in the middle of the season have indicated their opposition.

In October, the sport's governing body delayed making a decision on whether to play the tournament in the winter, saying it was setting up a consultation process to decide when the finals should be held.

FIFA Vice-President Jim Boyce told Sky Sports News Wednesday that the normal timeline is still in place, and added that he was "shocked" and "surprised" by Valcke's comments.

"It absolutely has not been decided as far as the executive committee are concerned," Boyce said. "As it stands it remains in the summer with no decision expected until end of 2014 or March 2015."

Valcke's surprise announcement Wednesday comes more than three years after Qatar was originally awarded the tournament in December 2010, beating out the United States, South Korea, Japan and Australia. Its bid was based on a summer World Cup, despite the searing temperatures.

Qatar has argued all along that it will build air-conditioned stadiums using environmentally sustainable technology.

Al Jazeera with wire services

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