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Keir RadnedgeTheo Zwanziger, a long-time critic of FIFA’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup finals to Qatar, has returned to the attack. The former German federation president has become the first senior director of the international to say that the original decision should be reconsidered.

Zwanziger, in his outburst, also became the first FIFA insider to raise the dangers risked to the entire European game by a switch to winter.

He was able to speak up since he was not a member of the FIFA executive which took the fateful decision in December 2010. The German exco member at the time was Franz Beckenbauer who had backed the bid from first-round failure Australia.

Only the following May did Zwanziger join the FIFA governing body after Beckenbauer’s retirement. However he has long been on record as a critic of the hosting award and has now returned to the attack in an interview in Germany.

Zwanziger, who described the award as a “blatant mistake,” warned that the winter switch favoured by UEFA president Michel Platini “would have a deep effect within the structures of the European national associations as well as for amateur football in Germany.”

Expanding on a theme raised in these columns but never by Platini, concerning the knock-on effect of a timing switch, Zwanziger said: “A schedule change would affect not only the Bundesliga but would continue to bite down into promotion and relegation issues. It would endanger the pyramid structure of our game and thus the unity of German football.”

Any fans who wished to watch the matches in outdoor big screens would have to do so “on skates at a temperature in minus degrees.”

Zwanziger added: “If a decision is really a mistake then it should be lifted and should not become an even bigger burden with its effect on those not involved in the first place.”

He was pleased that even FIFA president Sepp Blatter now appeared to have recognised that this had been “a blatantly wrong decision.” But he thought the majority of the FIFA exco who had voted for Qatar had been guilty of violating fair dealing. He was surprised that many critics at the time who had raised allegations of exco corruption had since fallen silent.

The significance of Zwanziger’s comments is that he is one of Blatter’s closest lieutenants in pushing through the FIFA reform process.

The English Premier League has rejected the idea of a date switch because of the problems affecting the financial balance between clubs, television and sponsors.

But a further problem concerns lower leagues. Usually, during a World Cup, no other mainstream football takes place or is even sanctioned. Most of Europe is in the summer close-season, anyway. But if the elite leagues of Europe’s Big Five were halted then the lower divisions in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain would want to clean up on TV and sponsor opportunities in November and December 2022.

That, in itself, might have an effect on World Cup marketing expectations.

If FIFA tried to prevent them playing in the traditional season time then lower division clubs could accuse the international football authorities of condemning them to bankruptcy.

By Keir Radnedge

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