UEFA president Platini, along with former FIFA executive member Franz Beckenbauer, have been among the loudest of voices proposing such a switch since soon after the surprise vote among the world federation’s top directors in December 2010.
Platini’s adherence to the idea was an initial surprise, given the upheaval such a switch would cause European’s Big Five league in which the majority of World Cup stars play their club football.
Prince Ali comes from a different direction as the Asian Football Confederation’s choice as its senior representative on the FIFA executive committee, a position he took up in the spring of last year. He has a particular knowledge of the main issue: coping with the summer temperatures in the Middle East.
The issue is kept alive because the European media, with particular concerns over the continent’s club football agenda, raise it regularly – almost mischeviously – with Platini. The Frenchman has never made a secret of the fact that he was one of those members of the FIFA exco who backed Qatar [He has also always denied that he did so at the ‘request’ of then President Nicolas Sarkozy].
Prince Ali was not a member of the FIFA exco when the vote was taken and understands that the Qatari organisers have always expressed a willingness to fall in line with whatever the world federation wants. The issue has a political dimension because Platini has been tipped as a likely successor to Sepp Blatter if the current president steps down in 2015, as he once suggested.
“Let’s look at what makes sense,” Prince Ali told this writer. “If the Qataris want to do it in summer they can I suppose.
“But, in my personal opinion as a football fan, it would be more conducive to do it in winter both weather wise for the fans and also for money to be invested in other things – such as development in the region – rather than on cooling equipment.
“I’m saying this not for any other reason but for what is most practical and I see no reason why not. In the Europe they have a winter break for the players and if UEFA is OK with it then why not?”
The Qataris, like the Russian hosts for 2018 and very much unlike the Brazilian hosts for 2014, have already set up their project management operation and started work. This, and a need to resolve the uncertainty which will hover in due course over European league TV negotiations, means that a summer/winter decision can not be forever put on the backburner.
Prince Ali said: “Obviously, both FIFA and Qatar have to think seriously about what the future is. There has to be a serious decision made and made soon.”