Zurich: FIFA on Monday raised objections to holding the 2022 Qatar World Cup in the summer despite calls by top European clubs and leagues.
FIFA's medical chief highlighted the health risk of holding matches between May and September, while the governing body's secretary general Jerome Valke said there would be a clash with the Muslim fasting month.
After a meeting of a task force to decide the dates of the Qatar tournament, FIFA said that a tournament in November-December or January-February was favoured. No firm decision has yet been taken though. "We are getting closer to narrowing the dates for the FIFA World Cup to two options - January/February 2022 or November/December 2022," said Valcke. "But FIFA has also been asked to consider May 2022," he added.
"We will summarise what we've heard today and provide feedback to all parties in order for them to prepare for the next meeting as we progress towards a final decision." The European Clubs Association, which groups 214 top clubs including Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich, proposed April-May at the meeting.
The Association of European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) gave a presentation on holding the matches in May-June. Jiri Dvorak, FIFA's chief medical officer, set out the "medical concerns related to player safety and fan safety if the FIFA World Cup were to be held between May and September," a FIFA statement said.
The tournament is traditionally held in June and July and the decision to give the tournament to Qatar has faced intense criticism because of the searing summer temperatures in the Gulf State. Valcke "highlighted the fact that the month-long period of Ramadan would begin on April 2 in 2022, which would have an impact on a number of players in their preparations for any April/May option and with regard to the preparation of the event itself," FIFA said.
Qatar organising committee chief Hassan Al Thawadi said that "for the Middle East, the ideal situation and circumstances for an all-inclusive World Cup would be for it to be held in the winter." But he added that Qatar "remained fully committed to delivering what was promised in its bid and organising the best possible event whatever is decided."
Valcke and FIFA executive member Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa will now provide recommendations for the next meeting of the task force in early 2015. UEFA has argued for a tournament in January/February 2022 to minimize disruption to the Champions League. But that could cause a clash with the Winter Olympics which FIFA leader Sepp Blatter has promised to avoid.
European clubs say that a November-December will force them into a costly shutdown when most Champions League games are being played. "We now have a greater understanding of where each of the stakeholders is coming from and we will carefully consider these opinions as we move forward towards defining the international match calendar," said Khalifa.