Australia warns Fifa over World Cup date switch

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 11:05am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 11:09am

Australia’s leading football official has cautioned Fifa against compounding the “flawed” choice for the 2022 World Cup host by rushing decisions about switching competition dates to avoid Qatar’s searing summer heat.

Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy issued a statement on Tuesday urging the sport’s global governing body to wait until after an investigation into the World Cup bid process before making any decisions about shifting the event to the northern winter. If the World Cup is rescheduled, the FFA wants compensation for the domestic leagues that are affected and for the countries that spent millions of dollars on unsuccessful bids based on the northern summer time frame.

Australia was one of the bids that lost out to Qatar in a process that has come under criticism.

“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 in the statement. “Fifa champions the notion of ‘Fair Play’ and that principle should apply to the decisions it makes in the coming months.”

Lowy said he had written and raised his concerns to Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who has spoken in favour of the seasonal change as a pragmatic solution to obvious problems associated with trying to play a World Cup in extreme heat. The Qatar bid promoted air-conditioned match arenas, but broadcasters, workers and fans have raised concerns about traveling and operating in the daytime temperatures.

Fifa’s executive board is meeting October 3 and Lowy listed a number of matters he wants members to consider:

- If the Executive Board agrees that a time change should be considered, then a transparent process should be established to examine the scheduling implications for all leagues and a method developed for agreeing appropriate compensation for those affected.

- An in-principle decision that just and fair compensation should be paid to countries that invested in bidding for a summer event.

-That any final decision on a winter World Cup should only be made after the investigative chamber of Fifa’s Ethics Committee, chaired by Michael Garcia, concludes its inquiries into the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

“Better to let the independent investigative process run its natural course and then, with those issues settled, make a clear-eyed assessment about rescheduling and its consequences,” Lowy said.

The big European leagues are opposed to a change because it would mean the World Cup was played during their regular domestic seasons. The Australian A-League would also be impacted - the league is played in the southern hemisphere summer to avoid venue congestion and clashes with other more popular sports Down Under.

Lowy said Australia invested heavily and had the nation behind its World Cup bid, and since the decision “has been careful not to let its misgivings about the process be interpreted as sour grapes.”

“But now, with increasing speculation about a change that will impact on us as one of the bidding nations, and because our competition will be affected, we have made our position public,” Lowy said. “If the World Cup were to be staged in the middle of our A-League season it would impact on our competition, not just for 2022, but for the seasons leading up to and beyond that date. Clubs, investors, broadcasters, players and fans would all be affected.”