The world football federation, struggling to control a desert storm over the timing of the finals plus the added complication of workers’ rights, is to launch a ‘consultation’ to study all the pros and cons of moving from summer to winter.
To that extent, president Sepp Blatter expressed satisfaction that FIFA was responding to the need to canvas leagues and clubs, sponsors and broadcasters and all the game’s other stakeholders worldwide.
He may be disappointed that the exco stalled his original rush to have the concept of a winter World Cup approved but, if that were the case, he did not show it.
The decision about moving the finals will not be made until at least the autumn of 2014 with a choice of precise time slot probably in 2015. This had been suggested as an appropriate deadline by the Qataris and was noted by Blatter after the exco as the last possible date for a decision.
Perhaps, most significantly, Blatter clearly hoped that the decision to kick the issue into the long consultative grass would also remove the debate from the headlines in the run-up to, and staging of, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Blatter, on his Twitter account, said: “The ExCo decided to launch a consultation process among main stakeholders for Qatar 2022 dates. No decision will be taken before 2014WC.”
How the issue will then play into the presidential election in 2015 is an intriguing factor. UEFA president Michel Platini, considered the favourite if Blatter retires, could find European votes draining away if, close to the election, he is cast in the role of date-change villain.
The new president of the Asian confederation, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, will provide ‘light supervision’ for a consultation run by secretary-general Jerome Valcke.
Sheikh Salman is a junior member of the exco, having joined only last May after he had been elected at the head of the AFC and as one of its FIFA exco delegates.
Intriguingly he was supported powerfully by Asian Olympic leader Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah – who also played a key role in the recent accession of Germany’s Thomas Bach as new president of the International Olympic Committee.
This suggests that the task force may be steered well clear of the suggestion of Platini that the World Cup should move to January 2022, because this could overlap with the Winter Olympic Games.
Platini, who has openly stated that he voted for Qatar, has promoted the need to switch since almost immediately after the exco voted for the Gulf state in December 2010. Only in the last few months has Blatter become a convert to the idea of shifting the 2022 World Cup away from the searing summer temperatures.
Qatar won World Cup host rights after a five-way dispute with Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States. Australia’s FFA president Frank Lowy has claimed that the losers should receive financial compensation if the 2o22 finals are moved to winter since they all bid for the traditional June/July slot.
The circumstances surrounding the simultaneous bidding for the 2018 and 2022 finals are subject of an investigation by FIFA’s ethics investigator/prosecutor Michael Garcia. He has indicated he wants to visit all the 11 original bid nations to discuss the campaigns and events surrounding it.
Blatter, asked about Garcia’s inquiries, insisted that the ethics commission was now entirely independent and he had no idea where Garcia was, what he was up to or where he might be planning to go.