Europe’s national football associations have given their overall backing to moving the 2022 World Cup to the winter, according to FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce.
The Northern Irishman, who is Britain’s representative on FIFA’s Executive Committee, said after a meeting of the 54 UEFA associations in Dubrovnik, Croatia, that the organisations want FIFA to consult with football’s major stakeholders before making any final decision. UEFA president Michel Platini voted for Qatar 2022 and has since been vocal in his belief that the tournament should be played in the winter. FIFA’s Executive Committee is now said to be expected to reach an agreement in principal on switching dates at its meeting on October 3-4.
Boyce told Press Association Sport: “What has come out of this meeting, and what I think is sensible, is an agreement by the UEFA countries that the World Cup cannot be played in Qatar in the summer. Everyone was certainly in agreement about that. But what the 54 countries do not want FIFA to do is to make a decision yet on exactly when in the year it is going to be played. There is still nine years to go and people feel FIFA should sit down with all the major stakeholders and come up with a solution that would cause the minimum disruption to football. There is plenty of time to do that in my opinion, and hopefully football will be the winner.”
However, clubs, leagues and players’ unions which join national federations in the Professional Football Strategy Council declined on Thursday to give Platini approval for the change. The stance of the European associations comes after the Association of European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) last week called on FIFA to avoid making a “hasty decision” on the future of the 2022 World Cup. The EPFL, which acts as the umbrella body for 29 leagues across Europe, laid out five key points which it believes must be considered by FIFA. It called for a “careful assessment” through a full consultation and decision making process balancing all relevant interests, including all football stakeholders and the EPFL, before any changes to the international calendar are put forward. The EPFL said that a decision cannot be rushed with “artificial deadlines” stressing the length of time remaining until the 2022 tournament. The EPFL noted that aspects to take into consideration would include the scheduling of qualifiers for the World Cup, a winter tournament’s impact on other football events and also a potential clash with the 2022 Winter Olympics. The EPFL added that leagues would require an assessment of the commercial, media and legal consequences of a switch in dates.