Qatar winter World Cup plan gets backing

The prospect of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar being switched to the winter has increased after both the Premier League chairman and Britain’s Fifa vice-president backed a move.

The Premier League has always strongly opposed a change but chairman Sir Dave Richards has admitted the tournament can not be staged in the summer due to the heat. And Jim Boyce, Britain’s Fifa vice-president from Northern Ireland, has now backed Uefa president Michel Platini’s call for the tournament to be held during the winter.

Richards, speaking at the Securing Sport conference in Qatar, said: “I think they will play [the World Cup] at a time that is proper for football but they will have to speak to the leagues in Europe. They will have to agree proper times when we can start and finish.

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“At the moment, it has a tremendous amount of implications for Europe. For us, at this minute, the answer is ‘no’.

“But, if we take a proper view, we have to find a way to have a winter spell where we don’t play and I think common sense will prevail. We’ve got Fifa now saying that medical people are saying that they can’t play in Qatar in the summer because of the heat, which is probably right. I think, over the next few years, things will change and they will come to a compromise.”

Boyce believes the searing heat of July in Qatar, where temperatures often reach more than 45°C, will be too much for players and spectators, even with the promise of air-conditioned stadiums.

Boyce said: “I was not part of the process that gave the World Cup to Qatar, but my feeling is that common sense should prevail. The World Cup is the greatest event in football and, from a spectator point of view, it has to be played at a time of year when people can enjoy it in comfort.

“People I know who live in Qatar say it would be very uncomfortable for the fans. There is also a medical and health concern for both players and spectators and if it is going to be safer to play it in January instead of July, then I would be in favour of that.”

Boyce insisted that, given enough notice, it should not cause too much disruption. He added: “Many other countries already have a winter break so, for them, it should not be too problematic.

“England is probably the main country where there is no winter break but I believe that, even there, if they are given enough notice, then for just one season it should be possible.”

Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke said earlier this month that the 2022 World Cup could be moved to the winter if research shows holding the tournament in the summer heat would be dangerous for players.