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U.S. Soccer Head Says FIFA Failed to Consider Qatari Weather

Sept. 11 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati says FIFA officials should have held more discussions about Qatar’s summer temperatures before the Middle Eastern country was awarded World Cup 2022 hosting rights in December 2010.

“What led to their decision when those facts were known three years ago?” Gulati said yesterday at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit hosted by Bloomberg Link in New York. “There’s a number of people that should answer that question.”

Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, the sport’s global ruling body, wants to move the tournament to the winter because Qatar’s temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in June and July, when the World Cup is traditionally held, could be dangerous for players and fans. FIFA’s executive committee will meet in Zurich on Oct. 3 and 4 to discuss the possible switch.

“We knew the temperature back then,” said Gulati, who is a member of the executive board. “Qatar has a plan to cool open-air stadiums. I’m not sure what you do about training sites.”

Europe’s biggest soccer leagues and clubs yesterday urged FIFA to avoid rescheduling the competition to the Qatari and European winter until an assessment has been carried out. They’re concerned about the potential disruption to national leagues and clashes with other sporting events. Most European domestic soccer competitions are in mid-season in the winter months.

“It affects a lot of things: television, commercial issues, players, spectators,” Gulati said. “It doesn’t affect the schedule for one year, it affects the schedule probably for four years.”

AS Roma President James Pallotta, speaking alongside Gulati at yesterday’s event, said he expects the 2022 tournament won’t be moved.

“The scheduling side of it is just so incredible,” Pallotta said. “At the end of the day, the players will pretty much be OK in the stadiums and training. I think it’s the fans that are the ones who are going to live with the 120 degrees.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Ben Priechenfried at the London Sports Desk at bprie@bloomberg.net; Eben Novy-Williams in New York at enovywilliam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser in London at celser@bloomberg.net

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