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World Cup At Christmas – Good or Bad?

The ins and outs of the first winter World Cup explained by BBC sports editor Dan Roan

 

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar should take place in November and December, a Fifa taskforce has recommended.

Key football officials met in Doha to discuss a number of options following fears a summer event would endanger the health of players and fans.

Summer temperatures in Qatar can exceed 40C while those in November and December drop to around 25C.

Tuesday’s recommendation is expected to be ratified by Fifa’s executive committee in Zurich on 19 and 20 March.

Taskforce chief Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa also recommended that the 2022 tournament should be shortened by a few days.

There has already been speculation that the tournament could start on 26 November and end on 23 December.

However, Fifa has already said there are no plans to reduce the size of the tournament from 32 teams or 64 matches.
Why November-December?

The other dates under consideration were May and January-February.

Fifa said a number of options had been discussed but felt that November-December was the best one because:

A January-February tournament would clash with Winter Olympics
The month of Ramadan begins on 2 April in 2022
Hot conditions prevail from May to September in Qatar

Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke said there were “pros and cons” for all options but said the “one solution” was November and December.

Sheikh Salman added: “We are very pleased that, after careful consideration of the various opinions and detailed discussions with all stakeholders, we have identified what we believe to be the best solution for the 2018-2024 international match calendar and football in general.”
What about a final on 23 December?

Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce said moving the World Cup to the winter was “common sense” but that a final on 23 December would be too close to Christmas and Britain’s traditional festive matches.

“That’s the only reservation I would have and I would like it a week earlier,” said Boyce. “But I want to wait until the Fifa executive committee meeting to hear all the details about the dates.”

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said he would do all it could to protect the traditional festive period for club matches.

That stance was echoed by Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the English Premier League. “We’ve got to make sure we keep the Christmas and New year programme intact,” he said.

Was the news a surprise?

Not so much a shock, more “the day many in football had feared”, according to BBC sports editor Dan Roan.

“Despite rampant opposition, Fifa says this unprecedented break with tradition is in the interests of players and fans,” he said. “But the ramifications are considerable, causing havoc for fixture calendars in an estimated 50 countries.

“Here in Qatar, this feels like the moment when the build-up towards 2022 can really begin and many will welcome Fifa asserting their power over the top clubs in the interests of a first World Cup in the Middle East.

“It also compounds the controversy that surrounded a host nation dogged by allegations of corruption and the abuse of migrant workers. The rifts that already divide the sport today feel wider than ever.”

What will happen now?

BBC Radio 5 live’s sports news correspondent Richard Conway said Europe’s leading leagues and clubs would be disappointed after losing “this argument” but indicated the row over dates would rumble on.

Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the English Premier League, indicated the matter was far from settled.

“Clearly there is still time within the process to consider our position further, but first we will consult with our clubs, other stakeholders in English football and other leagues before deciding on what, if any, further action might be appropriate or worthwhile,” he said.

Dan Roan added: “The debate surrounding the timing of the 2022 World Cup set the world’s richest leagues on a collision course with Fifa. Europe’s clubs will now seek compensation for the disruption caused.”

Is a winter World Cup workable?

Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce said a tournament in November and December would “cause a lot of disruption” but added: “It is eight years away and people should have enough time to make it work.”

However, Peter Coates, chairman of English Premier League side Stoke City, described the situation as a “disaster”.

He told BBC Radio 5 live: “The only saving grace is that we don’t have to think about it for a long time. It couldn’t be more disruptive.”

Greg Dyke said the best option would be to move the World Cup from Qatar but that November-December was “the best of the bad options”.

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