The 2022 World Cup in Qatar seems set to be played in November after Fifa’s secretary general stated that the tournament “will not be in June or July”.
Jerome Valcke, who has been given the task of looking at alternative dates due to the fierce heat of the summer in Qatar, says it is likely to be held some time between 15 November and 15 January. He may have jumped the gun and his words yesterday certainly created yet more controversy around the finals – Fifa insists it is just his personal view and that no decision has been made – but it now looks certain to be in the winter of 2022, with November the most likely date.
Valcke has been in close contact with Barclays Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore and has agreed to avoid any clash with Christmas fixtures. He also needs to avoid the Winter Olympics in the February of 2022, which leaves November as the only realistic option.
Valcke told France Info radio station: “It will not be in June or July.”
He added: “Frankly I think it’ll be played between 15 November and 15 January at the latest. If you play between 15 November and the end of the year that’s when the weather is at its most favourable.”
Valcke suggested it will be “like a warm spring in Europe” with “an average temperature of 25 degrees, therefore it’s perfect for football”.
Fifa later released a statement to say that Valcke was expressing his own view and that no decision would be made on the timing before this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
The official statement said: “Secretary General Jerome Valcke explained today in the Radio France interview – as he had already mentioned previously – that in his view the 2022 Fifa World Cup must take place in winter and the best possible timeframe would be 15 November to 15 January.
“However, the precise event date is still subject to an ongoing consultation process which involves all main event stakeholders, including both the international football community (Fifa, confederations, member associations, leagues, clubs, players) as well as Fifa’s commercial partners (commercial affiliates and media rights licensees).
“As the event will not be played until eight years’ time the consultation process will not be rushed and will be given the necessary time to consider all of the elements relevant for a decision. Consequently, no decision will be taken before the upcoming 2014 Fifa World Cup Brazil as agreed by the Fifa executive committee.”
Britain’s Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce was taken by surprise by Valcke’s disclosure.
“I was totally surprised this morning when I heard what Jerome has said,” said Boyce. “As I understand it all the stakeholders will have discussions and report back to the executive committee of Fifa and no final decision will be made on when the 2022 World Cup would be played until December 2014 or March 2015.
“As far as I am concerned that remains the situation and there has been nothing said to me to make that any different.”
Boyce, from Northern Ireland, said Valcke “may have been stating his personal opinion”.
He also said there had been a general assumption that the 2022 World Cup could not be played in the summer due to the heat. That view has previously been expressed by Uefa’s 54 member countries and Fifa president Sepp Blatter but no decision on alternative dates has been made.
“There is an expectation but there has been no decision,” insisted Boyce.
Qatar 2022 organisers said they would be ready to host the World Cup whatever decision was made. A statement said: “During the Fifa executive committee meeting in October it was agreed that Fifa would enter a period of consultation on the ideal time of year to host the World Cup in Qatar – with a recommendation expected after the World Cup in Brazil.
“We await the outcome of this consultation period. We will be ready to host the World Cup regardless of the outcome.”
The SPFL also released a statement last night, but chief executive Neil Doncaster said only that the governing body will remain tight-lipped for now. Doncaster said in the statement: “As a member of the Association of European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) – which is dealing directly with Fifa on the issue of 2022 World Cup scheduling – we are one of the leagues involved in a consultation.
“There is a meeting of the EPFL in Frankfurt on 23 January, where we will be represented and after which we will be providing any update on the situation to member clubs.”
Valcke’s surprise announcement yesterday came more than three years after Qatar was originally awarded the tournament in December 2010. The country won the hosting rights ahead of Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States, eventually succeeding in the fourth round of voting by 14-8 ahead of the United States.
How a winter World Cup might work...
May 2022: European football season ends as usual.
June: When the World Cup would usually be held, players will have the month off.
July: Champions League qualifiers as normal. There might have to be fewer qualifying entrants to cope with the earlier start.
Mid-July: Start of season for leading European leagues.
2-3 August: Champions League play-off round.
9-10 August: Champions League play-off round.
Mid-August: European transfer window closes.
23-24 August: Champions League group stage begins.
2 September: Euro 2024 qualifying matches.
6 September: Euro 2024 qualifying matches.
13-14 September: Champions League group matchday 2.
20-21 September: Champions League group matchday 3.
30 September: Euro 2024 qualifying matches.
4 October: Euro 2024 qualifying matches.
11-12 October: Champions League group matchday 4.
18-19 October: Champions League group matchday 5.
1-2 November: Champions League group matchday 6.
4 November: Mandatory release of players two weeks before World Cup. There would be no need for the usual post-season rest period before the World Cup given the event falls in the middle of the season when they would usually be playing up to three times a week. There would be space for the usual World Cup warm-up games, which would take the place of the regular November international date.
18 November: World Cup begins in Qatar.
1 December: World Cup
group stage ends.
4 December: World Cup
round of 16.
6 December: World Cup
round of 16 ends.
9 December: World Cup quarter-finals.
10 December: World Cup quarter-finals.
13 December: World Cup semi-final.
14 December: World Cup semi-final.
17 December: World Cup third-fourth place play-off.
18 December: World Cup final takes place, falling on Qatar National Day.
26 December: The SPFL and English leagues could return to start their traditional packed Christmas and New Year fixture programme. Other leagues could chose to resume later if they determine that players returning from the World Cup after reaching the final or third-place game need a longer break.
Mid to late June: European leagues end.
August 2023: SPFL season starts as usual after a two-month break.