FIFA’s executive committee will vote to move the 2022 World Cup from Qatar’s summer heat, head of soccer’s world governing body Sepp Blatter has confirmed, but did not guaranteed moving the tournament to a winter date.
The comments on Sunday are the strongest indication yet that Qatar could lose the World Cup, with Blatter also conceding that it was a mistake to award a summer tournament to the desert state and that hosting it in winter may not be feasible.
“Those that have taken the decision at the time, they knew there is problems with the heat,” Blatter told AP.
“They knew it, because it was in the [bid evaluation] report. It was wrong to say, ‘now we have to play in summer,’ because in summer you cannot play there.
“Therefore the [executive committee] now shall take the decision – and they will take it – that in summer you can’t play in Qatar.”
The committee members, many of whom participated in the December 2010 vote to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar over the US, are due to make a decision on the timing of the month-long event during their next meeting in Zurich on October 3-4.
FIFA executive Theo Zwanziger already has described awarding the event to Qatar ‘a blatant mistake’.
“I would be very much surprised, more than surprised, if the [executive committee] will not accept the principle that you cannot play in summer in Qatar,” Blatter said.
“What will be following, this would be then decided later. We have to look on the international calendar. We have to look if and how it is possible, [if] we don’t play in summer, when is the best time to play in winter?”
Blatter said the committee would explore the possibility of switching to winter, with November or May being the most likely options, but it may prove unfeasible.
European championships and nations that lost the bid to host the Cup are likely to challenge any move to winter, potentially opening up expensive legal disputes.
The new chairman of the Football Association in England said earlier this month hosting a summer World Cup in Qatar would be “impossible”.
Days later, Europe’s five biggest football leagues backed a letter from the European Professional Football Leagues chairman to FIFA that protests against moving the tournament to winter.
Qatar has said it is developing air-conditioned stadiums but would also be open to moving the tournament to winter.
Blatter has previously said the stadiums would not be sufficient to protect fans attending parallel events and entertainment.