Qatar 2022 'could wipe out Chistmas fixtures'
Angry Premier League boss says Fifa ignored objections to force through winter World Cup
European clubs have reacted with anger to the news that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar looks set to be staged from "late November to late December".
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said that he and his European counterparts were "very disappointed" by a Fifa recommendation to play the controversial 2022 tournament in the middle of the European season.
Scudamore sat on a 40-strong task force that met in Qatar to discuss the timing of the tournament after it was accepted that the 40C summer heat would rule out World Cup football.
But Scudamore had little say in the final decision, which is expected to be ratified at Fifa's executive committee meeting in Zurich on March 19 and 20.
Clearly exasperated as he left Doha, he said he was "very disappointed, that's the word, on behalf of all the European leagues and particularly the European clubs who provide most of the players for this World Cup."
"The idea that we turned up today - it was a pretty short meeting - to be told that it is going to happen in November and December is very disappointing."
The Premier League chief took aim at both Fifa and Uefa, claiming that the latter didn't stand up for its members. "Fifa keep their international dates, they keep their World Cup intact, even Uefa, who, I think, let us down a little bit, clearly pushed this," said Scudamore. "So their Champions League can start and carry on again, just like it always does."
Scudamore said that there had been little discussion in Doha – "we were pretty much told, hence the disappointment" – and warned that the consequences of staging the 2022 World Cup in November and December could have a damaging impact on English football's festive season.
"Our particular concern is that a Fifa World Cup that finishes late in December could result in damaging one of the English game's great traditions and attractions, with the removal of the entire Premier League, Football League and FA Cup Christmas and New Year fixture programme that season," Scudamore said.
"Clearly there is still time within the process to consider our position further, but first we will consult with our clubs, other stakeholders in English football, and other leagues before deciding on what, if any, further action might be appropriate or worthwhile."
Scudamore's comments were echoed by Frédéric Thiriez, president of the French professional league, who said a winter World Cup would be a "catastrophe" for the game in France.
Meanwhile the European Clubs Association (ECA) warned of the financial implications of disrupting the busy European football calendar. "For the football family the rescheduling of the World Cup presents a difficult and challenging task," said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the ECA chairman. "All match calendars across the world will have to accommodate such a tournament in 2022-23, which requires everyone's willingness to compromise. However, the European clubs and leagues cannot be expected to bear the costs for such rescheduling. We expect the clubs to be compensated for the damage that a final decision would cause."
But not everyone in Britain believes moving the World Cup to the winter will be a bad thing. Speaking to BBC Sport, former player turned pundit Phil Neville says it could work in England's favour. "We normally go into a World Cup at the end of a long, hard, nine-month season when our players are absolutely dead on their feet," said Neville, who won 59 caps for the Three Lions. "For an England team, this might be the best thing that's ever happened."