DOHA (AFP) – FIFA president Sepp Blatter said for the first time on Friday that he ‘expects’ the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to be held in winter rather than the traditional summer months of June and July.
Qatar was controversially awarded the right to host the tournament last month despite summer temperatures in the Gulf emirate soaring to over 40 degrees Celsius.
Concerns have been raised about the health impacts of playing in such heat and Blatter said winter would make more sense.
“I expect it to be in the winter because when you play football you must protect the main people, the players,” he said at a media roundtable in Doha ahead of the Asian Cup, which kicks off later Friday.
German legend Franz Beckenbauer, a FIFA executive committee member, and England coach Fabio Capello are among others who have voiced support for a switch of dates.
UEFA president Michel Platini is also said to be sympathetic to the idea.
But any change would have major implications for domestic competitions in Britain and the rest of Europe where the league programmes would be in full swing.
Qatar has insisted that it won the right to host the World Cup on its merits with a proposal to build climate-controlled stadia that will enable players and fans to be comfortable in the searing desert heat.
But there have been sceptics amid claims that the decision was political, linked to Qatar’s deep pockets.
Blatter said FIFA had yet to be approached by Qatar about a change of dates.
“They need to bring together an organising committee, then if they have any wishes on whether they want to change the basic conditions prevailing at the bidding process, then they have to make this demand of the FIFA Executive Committee,” he said.
“The Executive Committee is free to change anything,” he added.
“We have time to look at this question, it is still 11 years away.”