FIFA Prepares to Discuss Moving Qatar Soccer World Cup to Winter

FIFA executives are preparing to discuss today whether to move the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to the winter to avoid the summer heat in the emirate.

The executives will consider the option at a meeting in Zurich, three years after they voted for Qatar to become the first Arab host of the soccer tournament. While FIFA will confirm that the event will be held in the country, the body will set up a panel to discuss the schedule, the British Broadcasting Corp. said, citing people close to the board.

Qatar plans to spend more than $200 billion on infrastructure, including a rail and metro network and $9 billion on stadiums. A date change could set up conflict with the England’s Premier League and other European championships, forcing them to rearrange their schedules. Broadcasters, including Fox Sports in the U.S., have complained about rescheduling because games might conflict with other sports, such as the National Football League.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the head of a group representing Europe’s top soccer clubs, said FIFA must include teams and players in any decision. He said 75 percent of national team players at the World Cup are under contract with European clubs.

“We have to be sitting at the table when it comes to a final decision,” he said.

FIFA executives picked Qatar as host ahead of Australia, Japan and South Korea and the U.S., even after an evaluation report by the soccer authority’s own officials that said it was a “potential health risk” for players and fans by playing matches there in June and July.

50 Degrees

Qatar organizers say it could mitigate temperatures as high as 50 degrees Centigrade (122 degrees Fahrenheit) by installing air conditioning systems in stadiums, although it is open to changing the dates.

“If the international football community reaches a consensus to move the event to an alternate date, we are able to accommodate that change,” the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee said in a statement. “This would not affect our planning and preparation. Our commitment to cooling technologies will continue, for without it certain parts of the world will be denied the right to host such events.”

Soccer officials such as English Premier League Chief Executive Officer Richard Scudamore and U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said moving the World Cup could disrupt as many as four domestic seasons.

U.S. Soccer’s Gulati, who sits on FIFA’s executive committee, said the sport’s governing body should have held more discussions about the Qatari weather before granting hosting rights.

Fox agreed to pay a record $425 million for U.S. broadcast rights to the World Cups in 2018 and 2022, and is opposed to moving the date. The price is 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.