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FIFA appears ready to change dates of 2022 World Cup in Qatar

January 08, 2014|By Kevin Baxter
  • "It will be played between Nov. 15 and Jan. 15 at the latest," FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
"It will be played between Nov. 15 and Jan. 15 at the latest,"… (Laurence Griffiths / Getty…)

FIFA, the soccer's world governing body, has generally displayed a unique grasp on reality that often differs from the world the rest of us live in. But in two interviews with European media outlets this week, the group's highest-ranking officials have shown they may indeed understand the obvious.

First FIFA President Sepp Blatter told a Swiss newspaper that Brazil is hopelessly behind in construction for this summer's World Cup and predicted that the event will be the target of protests, as was last summer's Confederations Cup.

And now, CNN reports, FIFA is conceding it's hot in the Middle East in summer and appears ready to change the dates of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to avoid summer temperatures that frequently soar above 112 degrees.

"It will be played between Nov. 15 and Jan. 15 at the latest," FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke told a French radio station. "That is when the weather is most favorable."

But Valcke's concession is at odds with Blatter's statement that no decision on dates for the 2022 event will be made until after the Brazil World Cup, which ends July 13.

Almost from the moment FIFA choose Qatar over the U.S. to host the 2022 tournament, international soccer officials have warned of the potential health risks to both players and spectators because of the intense summer heat. But moving the tournament to a cooler time of year will create scheduling problems for European leagues and lucrative tournaments such as the UEFA Champions League.

It's also likely to be resisted by Fox, which paid $425 million for the rights to broadcast the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 event. Moving the tournament to a fall schedule would put the World Cup in direct competition with Fox's coverage of the NFL.

Hoping to head off a firestorm, the FIFA executive committee, which is scheduled to meet in March, moved quickly to distance itself from Valcke's remarks.

"The precise event date is still subject to an ongoing consultation process," the group said in a statement. "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."

The Qatar World Cup caused unwanted controversy last fall when Amnesty International issued a report alleging abuse of migrant workers brought to the gulf monarchy to build stadiums and other tournament venues. Britain's Guardian newspapers likened the conditions to slavery.

But all FIFA and Blatter could muster in response was a faint cry of "unacceptable," followed by a promise not to move the event.

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