Fox Said to Oppose FIFA Plan to Shift 2022 Soccer World Cup

Fox Sports, which agreed to pay a record fee for U.S. broadcast rights to soccer’s World Cup, opposes plans by the sport’s governing body to reschedule the 2022 event in Qatar, two people familiar with the matter said.

James Murdoch, the son of 21st Century Fox Inc. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, and other network executives told FIFA that moving the competition by several months from its usual June start to the winter would clash with National Football League games, according to one person familiar with the matter. The people requested anonymity because the talks were private.

FIFA’s executive board is meeting next month to discuss a proposal by the Zurich-based organization’s president, Sepp Blatter, to reschedule the tournament because of the high temperatures in Qatar. Fox in 2011 agreed to pay $425 million for the two-tournament, 2018-22 package, more than four times what current rights holder ESPN paid for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and next year’s edition in Brazil.

“FIFA has informed us that they are considering and voting on moving the 2022 World Cup,” Fox said in an e-mailed statement. “Fox Sports bought the World Cup rights with the understanding they would be in the summer as they have been since the 1930s.”

Since Qatar, a Gulf emirate smaller than Connecticut, in 2010 became the surprise choice to host sport’s most-watched event, FIFA has faced questions about the selection.

FIFA Decision

The governing body’s executive board chose Qatar ahead of offers from the U.S., Australia and Korea and Japan even though FIFA’s inspection team said the choice would be high risk. The biggest danger is posed by temperatures that can reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) during the summer months. FIFA declined to discuss its discussions with Fox.

“The matter of the timing of the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be discussed in various ad hoc committees as well as the FIFA Executive Committee and until these meetings have taken place FIFA is in no position to make any further comments,” FIFA said in a statement.

Fox’s concerns about the effect of a schedule change echo those of England’s Premier League, soccer’s richest domestic competition. Richard Scudamore, the chief executive officer of the English championship, has opposed a switch. He’s argued that moving the tournament to winter would force changes to European soccer schedules for several seasons.

No Compensation

FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke, who is responsible for the World Cup, told reporters in Buenos Aires last week that stakeholders shouldn’t expect compensation.

“No, no, no, compensation is a word you should never use,” he said when asked about whether FIFA would make financial settlements to those affected by date changes.

FIFA officials will meet Oct. 3 and Oct. 4 to make a decision on the proposal, and then a detailed investigation into the implications will take place, Valcke said.

“I am sure that we will all come to an agreement that playing in summer presents some challenges and that winter is a better period to have the World Cup and that all the parties will agree on the date and the change of the calendar,” he said.

Europe’s biggest clubs and leagues last week urged FIFA not to commit to a move before assessing the effects of the change. Their stance was today backed up by Football Federation Australia Chairman Frank Lowy, who said the global governing body should take time to consult its member associations.

FIFA also needs to consider paying “just and fair compensation” to those nations that invested “many millions and national prestige” in bidding for a 2022 tournament held in the northern hemisphere summer, Lowy said in a statement.

“FIFA has an opportunity now to make the best of a bad situation by embarking on a transparent and orderly approach, unlike the process that led to the original flawed decision in December 2010,” Lowy said.

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