Despite widespread speculation that Fifa will vote to switch the dates of the 2022 World Cup on Friday, football’s world governing body will probably delay making a decision and instead set up a task force to analyse the huge implications of moving the tournament from the searing heat of the Middle East summer.
Although the executive committee could agree in principle to move the dates of the World Cup, Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce told Reuters it should not rush into a decision and he wanted a task force set up to examine the issue.
“We will discuss when the World Cup will be held [and] we will also consider the plight of immigrant workers in Qatar whose harsh living and working conditions made headlines last week,” he said.
Thomas Bach, the new president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said he doubted the World Cup would clash with the Winter Olympics in 2022, if the finals were moved from their traditional June and July dates, adding that Fifa was likely to opt for November 2022, if it switched.
In a development related to the vexed situation regarding the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 finals to Qatar on the same day in December 2010, Michael Garcia, the head of the investigative unit of Fifa ethics committee, will tour all the countries involved in the bidding processes, he was quoted as saying in France Football on Tuesday.
Garcia, a former US Attorney in New York, is examining allegations of corruption in the voting that led to the awarding of the two World Cups.
A highly-placed Fifa source told Reuters the game’s world governing body now had to grapple with a huge political, social and financial problem of its own making.
“This is because the executive committee members who awarded the finals to Qatar in December 2010 ignored recommendations from Fifa’s own inspection report group that ranked Qatar second from bottom among the five contenders. They should never have chosen Qatar. It was flawed from day one,” Boyce, who joined the executive committee six months after the vote was taken, told Reuters in a telephone interview from his home in Belfast: “I don’t think there is any possibility of a decision being taken about moving the World Cup this week.
“What should happen next is that all the stakeholders, the major clubs from around the world, the major leagues, TV rights holders, sponsors, everyone needs to get around the table and have their say.
“Although Uefa’s 54 members have agreed it would be best to move the World Cup away from the summer, all the implications need to be studied in detail.
“And don’t forget, we don’t need to rush into this. The World Cup is still nine years away, we have plenty of time.
“But we also need to look very closely at the conditions of the immigrant workers who are building the infrastructure in Qatar and will be building the stadiums there for the World Cup.
“I was appalled and upset after last week’s stories that dozens of immigrant workers had died as a result of the conditions in Qatar and that thousands of others are being ill-treated. We cannot allow that.
“These people must be protected and their basic human rights safeguarded.” While Fifa president Sepp Blatter and his 27-strong executive committee struggle with the problem of when to stage the World Cup, the political implications of any decision they subsequently make will have far-reaching consequences.
Bach, who was elected IOC president last month, told the BBC he was not worried about a clash with the Winter Games.
“So far we have heard a proposal from the Fifa president to have it in November 2022, and there would be no clash whatsoever. We will now see how the discussions go.
“We are confident that in the mutual interest there will be a good solution for both big events and no clash with the dates.” The Winter Olympics are traditionally held in February, and sometimes the final days of January. The 2022 hosts will be chosen by the IOC in July 2015.
A close observer of Fifa’s inner workings, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said of the World Cup decision: “The whole process was flawed from the very beginning and right now the Fifa executive committee, with a lot of new members who were not on the executive when the vote was taken, is split on how to put the problem right.
“The executive committee is in four camps divided between the ones who believe that no switch will support Qatar while others believe no switch will torpedo Qatar.
“At the same time, there is a group who think that by switching you support Qatar and others who think switching will torpedo Qatar.
“And it is too simplistic to say it all comes down to what Sepp Blatter wants. He wanted the World Cup to be held in the United States.
“His vision of an Asian World Cup was probably to go to China, one of the last great football frontiers, not Qatar, where more than half of the national team is naturalised because the locals don’t play the game.
“His strategy from day one was to say we cannot play in June and July. By doing that he has sent a subliminal message, or perhaps not so subliminal, which is: ‘Why did my colleagues vote for Qatar? — I did not vote for them’.
“But while he says the World Cup cannot be played in the summer, he also knows that changing the dates could cost Fifa one billion dollars.” Qatar says it can host the World Cup in summer by building air-conditioned stadiums using environmentally-friendly technology and is reluctant to change the dates from June or July.
Last month the powerful European Clubs Association (ECA), which has more than 200 members, urged Fifa not to rush into a decision, saying there were still nine years to go and they wanted to be included in any proposed task force.
THE EFFECT ANY DATE CHANGE WOULD HAVE
FIFA’s executive committee will this week discuss the suggestion that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar should be held outside the traditional June-July period due to the searing summer heat in the country.
January, April and November have all been put forward as alternative periods.
The tournament lasts for 30 days but FIFA allows two full months for it in the international match calendar.
FIFA stipulates that players who are selected for their national teams play their last club games some three weeks before the start of the competition. Players would also require at least one week to recover afterwards.
The proposal to move the competition would force some domestic leagues to change their dates while others would be almost unaffected.
ENGLAND The English Premier League runs from mid-August to early May and is almost unique in not stopping for Christmas and the New Year. On the contrary, the festive period is one of the most hectic parts of the season and is considered as part of the English soccer tradition. Neighbouring Scotland also plays on through Christmas and the New Year, despite the inclement weather.
GERMANY The German seasons kicks off at the start of August and runs to mid-May but with a winter break of between four and six weeks from mid-December to mid-January.
FRANCE The season runs from early August to mid-May with a three-week break over Christmas and the New Year.
ITALY AND SPAIN The domestic season in both countries kicks off in late August and runs to mid-May in Italy and sometimes early June in Spain. Both countries have a break over Christmas and the New Year. Portugal and Turkey have a similar schedules.
In fact, Spain has in the past overlooked the international calendar, causing a clash of dates when players from Spanish club are selected for competitions such as the Confederations Cup and Copa America.
SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA Both countries kick off their season in mid-July, have a winter break of around two months, and then resume until late May. In Switzerland, the winter break is sometimes longer than the summer gap between different seasons.
Denmark follows a similar pattern, running from early August to mid-May with a two-month winter break.
GREECE The Superleague runs from late August until the end of April, although that is followed by a six-team mini-league between teams who finish second and fifth to determine Champions League and Europa League places.
RUSSIA The Russian season used to run from March until December but was transferred in 2012 to bring it into line with Western Europe. The season now runs from August until May but with a long winter break from December to March.
UKRAINE Another country where the winter rest is longer than the break between seasons. The Ukraine season starts in mid-July and finishes 10 months later in mid-May. The winter break runs from the start of December for three months until the start of March.
NORWAY AND SWEDEN Both countries would arguably be better off with a winter World Cup. Norway’s season runs from mid-March to early November, Sweden’s is similar but starts slightly later.
BRAZIL Brazil has one of the longest seasons in any country and is unique in holding regional tournaments in addition to the national championships.
The season generally runs from mid-January to mid-December with no break. The state championships (one for each of Brazil’s 27 states) run from mid-January until early May, with major teams playing some 20 games. Those are followed by the Brazilian championship, starting immediately afterwards and running until December, with 38 rounds of fixtures.
Despite this, Brazilian domestic football would remain largely unaffected as it generally carries on regardless of the international calendar, although it usually stops for the month-long duration of the World Cup itself. Otherwise, it is common for a full programme of domestic fixtures to take place on the same day that the national side is also playing.
ARGENTINA, URUGUAY AND VENEZUELA Argentina and Uruguay follow the European season, starting in August and finishing the following June. Both have a long summer break from December until mid-February. Venezuela’s season follows a similar pattern. Argentina’s squad is made up almost entirely of foreign-based players although a number of players from other South American countries play there.
BOLIVIA Bolivia’s season followed the calendar year until 2005, which was intended to see a transition to a European-style season. However, this was aborted halfway through the 2005-06 season and the country stuck with the calendar year. However, in 2011, there was a successful transition and the country’s season now runs from July to May with a long summer break.
CHILE, PERU, COLOMBIA, ECUADOR AND PARAGUAY The other South American countries use the calendar year, usually starting in late February and finishing in late November or early December, sometimes with a winter break.
MEXICO Mexico’s complex season runs from August until the following May with a one-month break around the New Year period. As Mexico’s national team have a large number of home-based players, and many South and Central American internationals also play in the country, clubs would be seriously depleted if the league did not observe the full period before and after the World Cup.
UNITED STATES The regular Major League Soccer season runs from March to October, with the playoffs in November and December.
JAPAN The J-League runs from March to December.
SOUTH KOREA AND CHINA South Korea’s K-League runs from March to November and