World federation FIFA has launched a extensive and long-running consultation into how to deal with concerns about the searing summer temperatures in Qatar in nine years’ time.
Europe’s 54 national associations have voted unanimously in favour of considering a timing switch but the federations and their own domestic leagues are not necessarily singing from the same songsheet.
That is certainly the case in England. Greg Dyke, chairman of the FA, insisted on Wednesday that the “2022 World Cup be played in the winter” but the Premier League – which features a significant number of the international game’s leading players – remains resolutely opposed.
Some other western leagues, including Germany, have proved more equivocal in their attitude to a winter switch. But any concerns they may have felt about appearing isolated are ill-founded.
Concern about a timing change have been expressed this week at the Leaders in Football conference in west London from central and South America too.
Decio de Maria, president of the Mexican league since April 2012, explained: “It’s a very tough question. We are structured with two tournaments a year plus play-offs in November and December.
“If a change is made then it will affect seriously the way we play so it’s important we have a voice through CONCACAF and with our people in FIFA.
“The soccer has always been structured is that winter is for the clubs and the summer is for the national teams and the World Cup. To change that will bring a cost and mean different things to the sport all over the world. We have to discuss this in a very detailed way before taking a decision.
“For us in Mexico it will very difficult and for every country in the world it will be a huge issue so before taking a decision FIFA has to hear everybody and understand the pluses and minuses of the whole decision.”
Mexico had been one of the original bidders for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup but withdrew during the campaign over financial concerns.
At that time the prospect of shifting the finals out of the traditional June/July slot was never contemplated.
De Maria: “Whether the World Cup was going to be in the fall or winter or spring was not in anybody’s mind so to stop the world like this creates a lot of questions.”
His opinion was echoed by Sunil Gulati, the president of the United States federation who led his own country’s 2022 bid and who is now a member of the FIFA executive committee which decided on the consultation process.
Gulati said: “This isn’t only about a few leagues in Europe. There are a whole bunch of countries around the world who would be affected because their leagues are the backbone of their national teams. Some have play-offs in November and December.
“That doesn’t mean it’s not possible but they have to be considered along with the Premier League’s problems.”
A third expression of concern for the structure of the club game across the world came from Chilean Harold Mayne-Nicholls who conducted the evaluation assessments of all the World Cup bidding nations on behalf of the executive committee.
Mayne-Nicholls, who has studied the ramifications of switching the 2022 finals to a variety of other dates, said: “It’s a worldwide problem. Not only a Premier League problem. All over the world we are playing league matches in most of the 209 FIFA countries so it’s not so easy.
“Also, we have to think about the Confederations Cup the year before the World Cup which is not so easy to alter either. If we cannot play the World Cup in June and July then we cannot play the Confederations Cup in June and July either.
“In that we must move the Confederations Cup and logically that would mean we must move all the leagues in the previous year too. It will affect clubs from all over the world with the global system of players we have now.”