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FIFA medical chairman says 2022 World Cup must be played in winter

Sep 17, 2013, 9:53 AM EDT

FIFA President Sepp Blatter addresses the media in Zurich Reuters

The chairman of the FIFA’s medical committee says the 2022 World Cup in Qatar must be played in the winter.

Medical committee chairman Michel D’Hooghe will advise FIFA that the extreme heat of the Qatari summer poses too great a risk to supporters.

“The World Cup is about more than games and players,” said D’Hooghe. “I am sure the Qataris have the technical skill to organize a tournament where teams could play and train in a stable, acceptable temperature, but it’s about the fans.

“They will need to travel from venue to venue and I think it’s not a good idea for them to do that in temperatures of 47C or more.”

The topic of when the 2022 World Cup will be played remains one of great debate.

D’Hooghe’s opinion mirrors that of FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who is determined to switch the date of the tournament from summer to winter and will be submitting a proposal to FIFA’s executive committee in October. Blatter has rejected the idea that air conditioned stadiums is enough to combat the extreme heat, noting that “you can cool down the stadiums, but you can’t cool down the whole country and you can’t simply cool down the ambience of a World Cup.”

Major dissenters of the switch include the Premier League, for the major impact that a wintertime World Cup would have on the English domestic season. Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore is adamant that the tournament go forward in the summer. “The bid was extremely thorough, they dealt with all the issues about the heat and the managing of the air conditioning in the stadiums,” Scudamore said. “My view is you can do it in the summer. You can do it there.”

The vote as to whether to move the date of the World Cup is set to go forward at the next executive committee meeting on October 3rd. Sunil Gulati, one of 25 people on FIFA’s executive committee, opposes the vote altogether saying “I don’t see at this stage, frankly, how I or any member of FIFA’s executive committee could make a sensible decision.”

For now, however, that vote appears to be going forward. Early indications are that D’Hooghe’s opinion will be given weight as the executive committee is expected to agree in principle on the winter move before embarking on a starting a six-month exercise to work out how it will affect the international calendar and domestic leagues.

  1. danielofthedale - Sep 17, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    Imagine that, our fearless leader Sunil not wanting to take a stand on an issue.

    • arbeck - Sep 17, 2013 at 1:23 PM

      Sunil is playing this correct. The longer the delay, the more likely you need to move it at the last minute. And the US is about the only country that could handle that on short notice.

      • drewvt6 - Sep 17, 2013 at 1:59 PM

        Somewhere Sunil has already stated it won’t be held in the United States. FIFA is a mob-family. The way to survive is living with the same mentality. Sunil knows whats best.

  2. dfstell - Sep 17, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    This is going to turn into a real mess. Yesterday came the news that FOX is angry because they won the rights on the understanding that it would be a summer tournament and wouldn’t have bid as much for a winter tournament. Today the Australian FA came out and said they want to be reimbursed for their unsuccessful bid.

    Even if FOX has unique concerns about a winter WC (because it competes with American football here), every broadcaster in the world probably bid on the rights and did all their financial modeling based on it being a summer tournament. I’m not sure how it changes to make it a winter tournament, but it changes things and broadcasters would have bid differently if they had known that.

    So now they have a situation where if they move it to winter, they will piss off broadcasters, sponsors, some players and most of the European leagues. Or they can leave it in summer in Qatar and have a terrible event due to the heat. Or they can move it to another country and upset the Qatar and others in the Middle East who would see it as a sign of disrespect for their region.

    Talk about being hoist by their own petard.

    • talgrath - Sep 17, 2013 at 2:36 PM

      I didn’t even think about TV rights until now. Depending on how the contract is structured, FOX could potentially sue the pants off of FIFA if the tournament’s season is changed. FOX already has tons of college football and NFL action to play in the same or similar time slots as the World Cup in Qatar.

  3. carefreejt - Sep 17, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    Fifa is corrupt. ..on top of being inept, taking no stand on racism (besides publicity stunts)….Sepp Blatter and Platini are not good for the sport

  4. markburst - Sep 17, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    The backlash and the legal battles that will ensue will eat up all the bribes FIFA accepted to give the WC to Qatar. Australia will sue, not because they lost the WC bid, but because moving the WC to winter would cause their league harm… watch every European FA follow suit… not to mention FOX TV who will also sue.

    I could even imagine half the soccer playing world, the half with the best players, simply opting out of FIFA to avoid playing in Qatar or simply fielding amatuer teams as million dollar players will not risk their health.

    They could start a new organization. Call it the International Football Coalition. I am sure everyone except Oceana and possible Africa would give FIFA the finger. But when every other federation left FIFA, holdouts would have no choice if they wanted to compete in the International Cup, played every four years, in alternating first world locations.

    Nobody wants to go to Qatar. Qatar is place you end up when you have no choice, similar to HELL.

  5. phredicles - Sep 17, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    I think this was a bait and switch. The people pushing this bid knew all along a June Cup in Qatar. would be impossible, but they pretended otherwise to get the necessary votes.

    There’s nine years until the Cup – plenty of time to move it. The 1986 World Cup was supposed to be in Colombia, but because of the violence there it was changed on much shorter notice than this to Mexico. It’s time for FIFA to admit they blew it and take the tournament somewhere else.

  6. talgrath - Sep 17, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    So…nobody thought to ask the FIFA medical chairman about conditions in Qatar and how they relate to player and fan safety before accepting the bid? Shouldn’t you ask a medical professional before hosting the biggest tournament in the world in a country it hasn’t been held in before to assess the conditions for said tournament in said location?

  7. rphillish - Sep 17, 2013 at 7:05 PM

    All the arguments for or against a winter cup aside. All the talk about money and corruption aside. I don’t really like all this hesitancy to change. If the World Cup is to be truly played around the world, than everyone is going to have to be more flexible with scheduling. Besides, the BPL needs a winter break anyway.

    • rphillish - Sep 17, 2013 at 7:14 PM

      Also wanted to add, FIFA probably could have avoided most of this mess if they were just up front with everyone. If I recall correctly, the idea for a winter World Cup was proposed after Qatar was awarded the right to host. FIFA should have been more proactive there, and told everyone straight up, “your bid for the Cup needs to take into consideration your climate.”

  8. braxtonrob - Sep 17, 2013 at 7:17 PM

    Big surprise, a doctor says don’t play; shocker.

    Next.

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