Qatar World Cup to be held in winter, Fifa's Jerome Valcke says
But governing body says secretary general's comments were his personal views and no formal decision has been made to move the date
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will not be held in June and July, but would best be held in the winter time, Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke said yesterday.
The scheduling of the tournament has been hotly debated since Fifa controversially awarded it to Qatar in December 2010, especially over fears that the summer heat in the Gulf emirate would be dangerous for players and fans.
"The dates for the World Cup [in Qatar] will not be June-July," Valcke, the second-most powerful man in international football's governing body, told Radio France. "To be honest, I think it will be held between November 15 and January 15 at the latest.
"If you play between November 15 and the end of December that's the time when the weather conditions are best, when you can play in temperatures equivalent to a warm spring season in Europe, averaging 25 degrees.
"That would be perfect for playing football."
But Fifa reacted to Valcke's comments by saying they were his personal views and that no formal decision to move the date of the tournament would be taken before this year's World Cup finals in Brazil in June.
"Secretary general Jerome Valcke explained in the Radio France interview - as he had already mentioned previously - that in his view the 2022 Fifa World Cup must take place in winter and the best possible time frame would be 15 November to 15 January," said Fifa.
"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. Consequently, no decision will be taken before the 2014 Fifa World Cup Brazil as agreed by the Fifa executive committee."
Valcke did not say if he favoured a World Cup in the winter of 2021-22 or 2022-23, but the deciding factor could be the timing of the Winter Olympics.
The awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar has been beset by criticism, especially over the searing heat that bakes the Gulf emirate in the summer.
Calls had grown increasingly strident to switch it to winter.
But this ran into opposition from European clubs, who would lose their top players in the middle of the season, and from the International Olympic Committee fearful of any competition with the 2022 Winter Olympics.
World Cup organising committee officials in Qatar have insisted they were prepared.
"We've always said we can stage the World Cup in summer," said Hassan al-Thawadi, secretary general of the Qatar 2022 organising committee last month.
"The cooling system for the stadiums will be very much part of our legacy. But if the football world or Fifa want it to be staged in the winter then we are happy and ready. If they want it in summer, then we are still ready."