Qatar faces no threat to its right to host 2022 World Cup


Fifa will announce on Friday that Qatar faces no threat to its right to host the 2022 World Cup, sources close to the governing body have told BBC Sport.

The Gulf state faces allegations about its treatment of migrant workers, while there are also fears that searing summer temperatures in Qatar of more than 40C could risk the health of players and supporters.

But it appears Fifa will stick by Qatar, which saw off competition from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States to host the event.

Arriving for day two of Fifa’s meeting in Zurich, executive committee member Jeffrey Webb told BBC Sport: “We have the opportunity to make sure that the programme for Qatar is correct and in good form.

“Today we’ll focus on how we’ll analyse the situation, what’s in the best interests and how do we collaborate with various stakeholders.

“I don’t think that there will be a decision today. I don’t think there should be a decision today.

“The game is about the players, the fans, the experience and Fifa has a responsibility to make sure that we get it right.”

Fifa is also expected to reveal plans to monitor the issue of migrant workers on Friday following revelations last month in the Guardian. 

Ex-Republic of Ireland midfielder John Sheridan recalls the heat of the 1994 World Cup in USA

John Sheridan

“It was very difficult playing in temperatures of around 35C at the 1994 World Cup. I’ve never been to Qatar but the weather and temperatures people are talking about is a bit ridiculous. To play in heat of around 40C would be a bit too hot. Did we take any special precautions? Just a couple of pints of Guinness the night before with Jack Charlton! Joking aside, we obviously took plenty of fluids on board. Water bottles were thrown onto the pitch on a regular basis.”

At the same time, it also intends to form a taskforce – likely to be led by Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa – to examine alternative dates for the tournament.

The body will engage with all significant stakeholders, including domestic leagues across the world, before quickly reporting back to Fifa with a plan of action.

The BBC understands that Fifa is considering inviting English Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore – an opponent of any plans to stage a winter world cup – to be a member of the task-force.

Senior Fifa executives have expressed a desire for two representatives to come from England. The name of FA general secretary Alex Horne has also been mooted but sources say the final composition will be subject to agreement by the executive committee.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who said in August that he wanted to move the tournament away from the traditional months of June and July, intended for the world governing body to vote for a scheduling switch on Friday in Zurich.

But a number of Fifa’s influential executive committee members, among them Uefa president Michel Platini, felt more time was needed for proper consultations to take place.

If Fifa decides to switch the timings of the 2022 World Cup, Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the head of the Fifa inspection team that assessed Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid, believes the tournament should be moved to January and February, when temperatures in the Gulf state average about 22C.

However, that could lead to a potential clash with other big sporting events, notably the Winter Olympics and American football’s Super Bowl, as well as domestic football leagues and the Champions League.

New International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has said he is confident there will be no clash with the Winter Olympics.

Fifa’s decision makers

Fifa president Sepp Blatter

The 25-strong executive committee that will decide the fate of the 2022 World Cup

President: Joseph S Blatter, Switzerland (pictured above).

Senior vice-president: Julio H Grondona, Argentina.

Vice-presidents: Issa Hayatou, Cameroon, Angel María Villar Llona, Spain, Michel Platini, France, David Chung, Papua New Guinea, HRH Prince Ali Bin AL Hussein, Jordan, Jim Boyce, Northern Ireland, Jeffrey Webb, Cayman Islands.

Members: Michel D’Hooghe, Belgium, Senes Erzik, Turkey, Worawi Makudi, Thailand, Marios Lefkaritis, Cyprus, Jacques Anouma, Ivory Coast, Rafael Salguero, Guatemala, Hany Abo Rida, Egypt, Vitaly Mutko, Russia, Mohamed Raouraoua, Algeria, Theo Zwanziger, Germany, Marco Polo Del Nero, Brazil, Sunil Gulati, USA, Eugenio Figueredo, Uruguay, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, Bahrain, Zhang Jilong, China, Lydia Nsekera, Burundi.

American TV network Fox, World Cup rights-holder for North America, is understood to be concerned over the commercial implications of any move that would see any clash with the NFL season, let alone the Super Bowl.

If the IOC and Fox can be accommodated, Fifa could still face the ire of Australia, Japan, South Korean and the United States, who all lost out to Qatar in the race to stage the 2022 World Cup.

Australia is demanding compensation from Fifa, arguing that it based its bid on a World Cup held in June and July.

Football’s governing body claims there are no grounds for compensation as all bidders had to accept there could be a change to the schedule at the governing body’s behest.

The executive committee’s meeting began on Thursday, when Brazil’s preparations for next year’s World Cup were discussed.

Former France, Fulham, Manchester United and Everton striker Louis Saha told BBC Sport he thought it was impossible for players to handle the Middle Eastern country’s extremely high summer temperatures.

“I was in Qatar recently and it was 48C,” he said. “Believe me, it is impossible to have a proper game down there.”

In recent months there has been opposition to moving the tournament, notably from the English Premier League, whose chief executive Richard Scudamore predicted “chaos” if a switch to the northern hemisphere winter is approved.

Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce, from Northern Ireland, is prepared to back a decision in principle to move the World Cup to the winter.

Qatar weather

Image of Simon King Simon King 5 live weather forecaster

Qatar has a hot desert climate with daytime temperatures usually peaking at 42C during June and July. It doesn’t tend to get much cooler overnight as temperatures typically don’t fall below 30C.

The climate during November and December is similar to that of a European summer, when the average daytime temperature is around 26C with the chance of a little rain at times.

He said: “I don’t think we can make any decision on the exact timing – should it be in November, January or whenever – until we have got everyone in the game around the table to find a solution.”

That view was also expressed to BBC Sport by another member of the 28-strong executive committee, who wished to remain anonymous, while former British Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe agreed with the stance of Platini, who is also a Fifa vice-president.

Sutcliffe told BBC Radio 5 live: “I think that Platini is right, there needs to be consultation with our Premier League and with other leagues.”

On Thursday, Football League chairman Greg Clarke, who was part of England’s 2018 bid delegation three years ago when Qatar won the vote for 2022, said Fifa should run the vote again rather than switch the tournament to the winter.

“It should be like any public tender process and if the tender isn’t valid, then have a new one,” he said.

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Dan Roan reports

“There were some really good bids from people like Australia and the United States, who spent a lot of money and have a great footballing culture and really wanted to run the World Cup.”

Uefa’s 54 member associations have already backed a switch, while Europe’s leading clubs have said they are “open” to the possibility of a winter World Cup in Qatar.

Qatar, which promised revolutionary air-cooling technology to counter the summer heat, reiterated in a statement on Wednesday that they are prepared to host the tournament at any time.

“If the international football community reaches a consensus to move the event to an alternate date, we are able to accommodate that change,” it read.

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