Fifa stands firm on Qatar World Cup

12 September 2013

Fifa 2022 World Cup tournament could be moved to the winter to avoid Gulf summer

The threat of Qatar losing the rights to host football’s 2022 World Cup has diminished after Fifa denied that President Sepp Blatter had said awarding the Gulf state the tournament was a mistake.

“Contrary to what other media seem to have understood – and published since then – the answer given by the Fifa president [in an online interview] makes no relation whatsoever between the election of Qatar as hosts of the 2022 FifaWorld Cup and a ‘mistake’,” says a Fifa spokesman. “The reference to a potential ‘mistake’ here exclusively relates to the current period of time – summer – of the 2022 Fifa World Cup.“

Over the past few months there has been growing pressure from Fifa officials and other football leaders to move the tournament to the winter to avoid the summer heat in Qatar and Fifa president Sepp Blatter has said he wants the Qatar tournament moved to the winter on health and safety grounds due to the harsh summer temperatures in the Gulf state.

Fifa is preparing to discuss the future of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar at its next executive committee meeting on 3-4 October. “Fifa president Blatter will bring forward the matter of playing the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar in winter to the Fifa Executive Committee on the occasion of their next meeting scheduled for 3-4 October 2013 in Zurich,” says the Fifa spokesperson. “This matter will now be with the Fifa Executive Committee and that we can, therefore, not comment further before the meeting has taken place.”

Qatar has publicly stated that moving the dates will not affect its plans for the tournament, which include the delivery of $70bn-worth of infrastructure projects. “A decision to alter the dates of the 2022 Fifa World Cup would not affect our infrastructure planning,” the Qatar World Cup supreme committee said in a statement on 10 August to the Associated Press.

A more damaging prospect is if Fifa decides to move the tournament to winter, it could prompt further calls for the rights of tournament to be rebid. Some calls for Qatar to resubmit bids for the tournament along with the US and Australia, which it competed against in 2010, have already been made. “You can’t bid on one basis and then switch around without going through the bidding process again,” former FA chairman David Bernstein told the London-based Mirror newspaper on 7 September.

Firms working on infrastructure projects in Qatar have downplayed the impact of a rebid and Qatar possibly losing the tournament. “I doubt it will change much as the majority of these projects are part of Qatar’s 2030 Vision,” says a Doha-based consultant. “It may even be a relief for some of the city’s planners.”

The most vulnerable part of the construction programme is the stadiums. Nine new stadiums are planned for the World Cup and all are still in the early stages of development and no construction work has started on site. “They will still probably build some of the stadiums, and there are already some early discussions about bidding for other major sporting events, such as the Olympics,” says the Doha-based consultant.

Doha had bid to host the 2020 games and was eliminated early. The Japanese capital Tokyo secured the rights to host the 2020 Olympics on 7 September and attention will now turn to the bidding for the 2024 games, an event Doha may wish to compete for again.

In December 2012, Dubai said that it would bid for the event, but reportedly changed its mind in July this year when the UAE Olympic Committee said it would not be bidding without giving a reason.

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