Despite the Premier League’s hardline opposition to the prospect of playing the 2022 World Cup in Qatar over the winter, league chairman Sir Dave Richards suggested on Tuesday that the Premiership would likely come around to the idea.
Richards, who steps down as the league’s chairman in June, made the claims during a speaking at an event in Qatar: “I think they will play [the World Cup] at a time that is proper for football but they will have to speak to the leagues in Europe. They will have to agree proper times when we can start and finish.
“At the moment it has a tremendous amount of implications for Europe. For us, at this minute, the answer is ‘no’. But, if we take a proper view, we have to find a way to have a winter spell where we don’t play and I think common sense will prevail.”
Richards’ comments fly in the face of not only the Premiership but the majority of Europe, who remain opposed to any tinkering with the established calendar. Richards attempted to support his comments by quoting “medical people” who claim that playing in the Qatari summer could raise health issues due to the heat (Qatar daytime temperatures in the summer can reach 113F.)
The Premier League, however, was quick to gag the chairman’s words when it issued a statement saying, “The Premier League’s view remains unchanged. We are opposed to the concept of a winter World Cup for very obvious practical reasons that would impact on all of European domestic football.”
Richards’ words fall in line with the beliefs of Jim Boyce, Britain’s FIFA vice president, and Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s general secretary, who recently hopped on board with switching to the winter. Boyce noted that other European countries – such as Germany, Russia and Ukraine – already impose a winter break into the schedule so there’s no reason to think England couldn’t do the same.
Despite the fact that Richards has once again gone rogue – a year ago he accused FIFA and UEFA of stealing football from England – it’s hard to argue that playing in the Qatari summer sounds like a good idea. Liability wise, it’s a huge risk. If a player, ref, manager or fan were to drop dead during a match the backlash would be ferocious.
Further, the disruption to domestic leagues would likely be in the range of 60 days, which feels doable. This means starting the 2021-22 Premiership season in late July and ending in early June, which doesn’t feel like a huge adjustment. Heck, it could even prove to be more palatable than the current schedule.
And for those holding out hopes of air conditioned stadiums and robotic cooling clouds, as of now there’s nothing to indicate that these dreams will come to fruition. Then again, the nerds do have 10 years to figure it out.