The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will not be held in June and July but would best be held in the winter time, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said on Wednesday.
The scheduling of the tournament has been hotly debated ever since FIFA controversially awarded it to Qatar in December 2010, especially over fears that the summer heat in the Gulf emirate would be dangerous for players and fans alike.
“The dates for the World Cup (in Qatar) will not be June-July,” Valcke, the second most powerful man in international footbal’s governing body, told Radio France.
“To be honest, I think it will be held between November 15 and January 15 at the latest. If you play between November 15 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.”
Valcke did not say whether he favoured 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.
The awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar has been beset by criticism, especially over the searing heat that bakes the Gulf emirate in the summer when the tournament is traditionally held.
Calls had grown increasingly strident to switch it to the winter time to accomodate players and supporters.
But this ran into opposition from European clubs, who would lose their top players for several weeks in the middle of the season and from the International Olympic Committee fearful of any competition with the 2022 Winter Olympics.
World Cup organising committee officials in Qatar have insisted they were prepared for all eventualities concerning the 2022 showpiece. “From the beginning, we’ve always said we can stage the World Cup in summer,” said Hassan Al-Thawadi, Secretary General of the Qatar 2022 Organising Committee last month.
In October FIFA said they would listen to the views of all concerned parties — players, clubs, leagues, federations and sponsors — with a view to taking a final decision on dates in December of this year.
It remains to be seen what the reaction to a possible winter World Cup will be from top European clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich who risk having to do without their top players at a key period for domestic leagues and the Champions League.