FIFA medical chairman says 2022 World Cup must be played in winter

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The chairman of the FIFA’s medical committee says the 2022 World Cup in Qatar must be played in the winter.

Medical committee chairman Michel D’Hooghe will advise FIFA that the extreme heat of the Qatari summer poses too great a risk to supporters.

“The World Cup is about more than games and players,” said D’Hooghe. “I am sure the Qataris have the technical skill to organize a tournament where teams could play and train in a stable, acceptable temperature, but it’s about the fans.

“They will need to travel from venue to venue and I think it’s not a good idea for them to do that in temperatures of 47C or more.”

The topic of when the 2022 World Cup will be played remains one of great debate.

D’Hooghe’s opinion mirrors that of FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who is determined to switch the date of the tournament from summer to winter and will be submitting a proposal to FIFA’s executive committee in October. Blatter has rejected the idea that air conditioned stadiums is enough to combat the extreme heat, noting that “you can cool down the stadiums, but you can’t cool down the whole country and you can’t simply cool down the ambience of a World Cup.”

Major dissenters of the switch include the Premier League, for the major impact that a wintertime World Cup would have on the English domestic season. Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore is adamant that the tournament go forward in the summer. “The bid was extremely thorough, they dealt with all the issues about the heat and the managing of the air conditioning in the stadiums,” Scudamore said. “My view is you can do it in the summer. You can do it there.”

The vote as to whether to move the date of the World Cup is set to go forward at the next executive committee meeting on October 3rd. Sunil Gulati, one of 25 people on FIFA’s executive committee, opposes the vote altogether saying “I don’t see at this stage, frankly, how I or any member of FIFA’s executive committee could make a sensible decision.”

For now, however, that vote appears to be going forward. Early indications are that D’Hooghe’s opinion will be given weight as the executive committee is expected to agree in principle on the winter move before embarking on a starting a six-month exercise to work out how it will affect the international calendar and domestic leagues.