FIFA task force recommends shorter world cup in Qatari Winter

DOHA, QATAR (FEBRUARY 24, 2015) (REUTERS) – A FIFA task force examining dates for the Qatar World Cup has recommended the Gulf state hosts a shorter tournament, staged in November and December 2022.

Asian Football Confederation head Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa told reporters in Doha on Tuesday (February 24) that those dates would be put to FIFA’s executive committee to be ratified in March.

It is a move sure to set world soccer’s governing body on a collision course with the major European leagues which would prefer an April-May option to minimise disruption to their lucrative domestic programmes.

“Well, I think the recommendation is towards November-December. But again this is an option of others as well. Some people have some concerns, but you know whatever decision you gonna take, I think people will have some you know question about it, but I think we have to look at you know the overall benefit of everybody,” said the sheikh.

There are no plans to reduce the size of the tournament from 32 teams or 64 matches, but the plan is for the competition to be shortened by a matter of days.

“There will be 32 teams, but if I say ‘shorter’, then it will be shorter by a few days; let’s say by a week and less.”

He added: “Y’know, all the minutes and all the discussions that has been discussed today will be put on the table at the EXCO in the meeting next March. But as I said you know, my personal feeling will be November-December. We will see.”

Soccer World Cups have always been staged over May, June and July since the first in Uruguay in 1930.

The latest date on which a final has been contested was July 30 — in Uruguay in 1930 and England in 1966. The earliest final was played out on June 10 in 1934.

June and July are not viable for Qatar, where temperatures can rise above 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), and the working group’s proposals would see the 2022 World Cup final contested a couple of days before Christmas.

A FIFA statement said the Task Force delegates saw the late November-December option as the “most viable period”.

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke told reporters after Tuesday’s meeting: “It’s clear that there are pros and cons for all, but that there is one period which – I mean there will be not one solution which will be supported by all. But there is one solution which is coming out from this discussion, which is November/December 2022.”

The working group was also exploring the option of staging the FIFA Confederations Cup — traditionally a World Cup rehearsal — in another AFC country during the June-July period and instead using the FIFA Club World Cup as an operational test for Qatar in November/December 2021.

During Tuesday’s meeting a number of options had been explored, including pushing the cup to early 2023.

If ratified in Zurich in March, the recommendations are sure to upset the European leagues, despite UEFA soccer’s governing body saying on Tuesday it supports the task force’s choice.

The November-December option targets the coolest months and avoids a clash with Ramadan and with the Winter Olympics, which are slated for January-February 2022.