In Depth

2022 World Cup could be played in winter to avoid Qatar heat

Could World Cup be staged slap, bang in middle of Premier League Season? Yes, possibly...

THE FIRST winter World Cup has taken a step closer to becoming reality after Premier League chairman Dave Richards and Britain's Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce threw their support behind the idea.

Boyce's boss, Sepp Blatter (right), first mooted the idea two years ago when it was suggested the 2022 World Cup in Qatar could be played in the northern hemisphere winter in order to minimise the effect of the desert heat on players. At first the power-brokers in British football dismissed the idea as nonsensical but now it appears they're coming round to Blatter's way of thinking.

Speaking to Sky Sports News at the Securing Sport conference in Qatar, Richards said at the moment the Premier League was opposed to staging the World Cup in January and February 2022, slap bang in the middle of the Premier League season.

But Richards was quick to add: "I think they will play [the tournament] at a time that is proper for football but they will have to speak to the leagues in Europe. They will have to agree proper times when we can start and finish… We have to find a way to have a winter spell where we don't play and I think commonsense will prevail."

The world of football was, for the most part, stunned when Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup in December 2010 but the wealthy Arab oil state promised it would reduce the impact of the searing heat (in June and July, the traditional months for the World Cup to be staged, the temperature can reach 50C or 122F) by building air-conditioned stadiums for players and spectators.

Now that idea seems to have been shelved in favour of uprooting the tournament to the start of the year when the heat will be far more tolerable.

To counter the inevitable opposition among the European Federations, Fifa is emphasising the dangers for players and fans if the tournament is not moved. "The World Cup is the greatest event in football and from a spectator point of view it has to be played at a time of year when people can enjoy it in comfort," said Jim Boyce.

"People I know who live in Qatar say it would be very uncomfortable for the fans. There is also a medical and health concern for players and spectators and if it is going to be safer to play it in January instead of July then I would be in favour of that."

Boyce's sentiments are echoed by Michel D'Hooghe, the chairman of Fifa's medical committee, and Richards is also worried about sunstroke and sunburn. "We've got Fifa now saying that medical people are saying that they can't play in Qatar in the summer because of the heat, which is probably right. I think over the next few years, things will change and they will come to a compromise."

Despite Richards's comments, the BBC reports that a Premier League spokesman contradicted its chairman by saying: "We are opposed to a winter World Cup for obvious practical reasons that would impact on all European domestic football."

But football is a funny old game, particularly where Fifa are concerned, and it could be that before long the Premier League are also bowing to Herr Blatter.

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