LEADING European clubs have united in condemnation after governing body Fifa moved a step closer to moving the Qatar 2022 World Cup from its traditional summer slot to winter.
A Fifa task-force set up to examine the contentious issue yesterday recommended the tournament be held from late November to late December. It could mean a World Cup final played on 23 December, though precise dates will be determined next month when Fifa chiefs meet to ratify the plans on 19 and 20 March.
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, who represents England’s top 20 teams, said they were “extremely disappointed” at the recommendation, arguing that it posed a major threat to the traditional busy festive football programme. Scudamore also refused to rule out legal action if deemed “appropriate or worthwhile”.
“The prevailing view from the [main European] leagues has been that displacing the 2022 World Cup significantly from the original summer dates disproportionately impacts the sporting integrity of our competitions,” he said.
“Our particular concern is that a World Cup that finishes late in December could result in damaging one of the English game’s great traditions and attractions, with the removal of the entire Premier League, Football League and FA Cup Christmas and New Year fixture programme that season.”
A winter World Cup, albeit shortened to minimise disruption, could mean the English 2022-23 season lasting 12 months, with the league campaign starting in early July and concluding at the end of June.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who chairs influential representative body the European Clubs Association, warned they would demand financial compensation for the impact on their competitions. “The European clubs and leagues cannot be expected to bear the costs for such rescheduling,” he said. “We expect the clubs to be compensated for the damage that a final decision would cause.”
European governing body Uefa confirmed that it backed the task-force, which opted for winter over three alternatives: January-February, which would have clashed with the Winter Olympics; April-May, which overlaps Muslims’ observance of Ramadan; and June-July, when the heat is too severe.
Former international defender Phil Neville believes a mid-season, winter World Cup could enhance England’s chances of lifting the trophy for the first time since 1966.
“For an English football team this might be the best thing that’s ever happened,” said Neville.
“We’re going into a World Cup about halfway into our own season and we can actually have a real chance of being fresh and doing well.”
HOW IT COULD WORK
Qatar 2022 World Cup
■ Likely to start in late November and finish in late December, though talk of final being two days before Christmas would be controversial. Teams also need two weeks’ preparation time
2022-23 domestic season
■ Could start in early July, a month earlier than usual, and run until the end of October, when two-month World Cup break would start. Clubs could resume in January and finish season in late June or early July