Fifa confirms pre-Christmas World Cup Final
Tournament will clash with Champions League group stage and may be trimmed to 28 days
Fifa president Sepp Blatter will address the media later today to confirm that the 2022 World Cup final in Qatar will be played on December 18.
Initially it was believed the climax to football's showpiece competition might be staged on December 23, but in an announcement late on Thursday, Fifa confirmed that football's first winter World Cup will be decided five days before Christmas.
"This is, for us, an important step," Fifa director of communications Walter de Gregorio said outside Fifa headquarters in Zurich. "Finally we know the end of the tournament, the 18th, a Sunday. It is the national day in Qatar so it fits perfectly. You have enough time to do your Christmas shopping – this was a big issue."
There are also suggestions the 2022 tournament will be pared from 32 to 28 days, although de Gregorio refused to comment on those rumours, saying simply: "For the rest, like 28 days, I cannot tell you more, but tomorrow you are welcome to ask all the questions you need."
According to Sky Sports, the 2022 World Cup is "expected to start in the middle of November", normally the month when the group stage of the Champions League is in full swing.
De Gregorio acknowledged the clash, saying: "What we have to do now is work on the international match calendar, because of course this has an impact."
Uefa president Michel Platini endorsed the date of the final, although he reiterated his demand that Fifa cooperate with his organisation in ensuring minimal disruption to the normal schedule. "December 18 is fine for Uefa , we can accommodate any changes to the Champions League," he said. "But Fifa must now protect the international dates for the national associations – there are four international matches that could be affected and those are the lifeblood for the national associations."
The reaction from the Premier League was one of weary resignation, with Stoke City chairman Peter Coates telling BBC Radio 5 Live: "It's going to be very messy. We have to make the best of a bad job, the only saving grace is there's a long time to prepare for it."
The other significant announcement from Fifa on Thursday, concerned the 2019 Women's World Cup, which will be held in France after the country beat off competition from South Korea to host the tournament.
Meanwhile The Guardian says that Blatter has rejected the idea, jointly proposed by the BBC and Sky Sports, of a televised debate ahead of May's vote to elect a new president of Fifa.
Blatter, who's been in the position since 1998, is facing challenges from three rivals – Jordanian Fifa vice president, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, former world footballer of the year Luís Figo and the Dutch FA president Michael van Praag – but he appears to be reluctant to take them on in front of television cameras.
The Guardian reports that "a Fifa representative called the BBC and Sky to inform them that their joint proposal for a televised four-way debate had been rejected".