Friday, October 24, 2014

Europe's clubs back a Spring World Cup, but Blatter wants November

The tussle over when to host the 2022 World Cup rumbles on.

Days after potential FIFA Presidential candidate Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the Chilean with the oh-so English name, proposed moving the tournament back a month to May 2022 and kicking off as late as 1am to temper the effects of the summer heat, Europe's clubs seem to be moving in that direction.

The European Club Association which represents the continent's top clubs is set to back a switch to April or May of 2022. Their initial preference for January and February now seems to have bitten the dust after the International Olympic Committee, which counts FIFA President Sepp Blatter as a member, refused to contemplate moving the 2022 Winter Olympics to accommodate FIFA's cock-up.

Blatter has gone on record saying the winter is his ideal date, which would put him on a collision course with Europe the financial heart of football. "We cannot play the World Cup in summer," he reiterated this week. 

Yet the Association of European Professional Leagues has also stated it is dead against any disruption to its winter schedules and reluctantly maintains that summer 2022 is the only option.

European players' unions, whose members made up around three-quarters of the footballers at the last World Cup, are yet to get involved in the dispute although former Australian custodian Mark Schwarzer said earlier this week about a summer tournament in Qatar, "It's ridiculous to play at that time of year. I don't know why there is a debate." Their clubs might favour the minimum disruption to their businesses, but how many players will want to kick-off in an average of 35 Celsius, three degrees above FIFA's own threshold for extreme risk?

Underlying the latest developments is a suspicion that the climate-cooling technology promised in 2010 may not materialise, as it has never been tested on a large-scale before. English firm Arup's Showcase Model (left) got the temperature down from 44C to 23C, but little has been heard about their ambitious plans recently.

FIFA's taskforce dealing with the 2022 headache, lead by Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman Ebrahim al Khalifa, reconvenes on the 3rd of November and again in February 2015. 

At their first meeting in September FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke appeared to insist they were legally bound to host in 2022. With the IOC's rebuttal, this leaves November-December 2022 as FIFA's preferred timeslot, though this week's calls in favour of the Spring will surely now be brought to the table.

No final decision is expected before next summer. Meanwhile the sorry saga goes on.

-  Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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