The new head of the English Football Association has called on FIFA to move the 2022 World Cup in Qatar either to winter or to another country, adding to mounting criticism of the decision to give the tournament to the Gulf country.
Qatar won the hosting rights three years ago despite the bid being declared “high risk” by FIFA’s own inspection team, which highlighted the searing summer heat in the Gulf where temperatures can hit 50 degrees Celsius.
Having initially rejected concerns about Qatar, FIFA President Sepp Blatter recently backtracked and his executive committee will consider in October whether their showpiece event should be moved to the winter.
But the English Premier League is leading opposition to such a change because of it would disrupt the August-May season.
However, new FA chairman Greg Dyke said he is open to moving the tournament to winter, but fears that would lead to a damaging legal battle between the leagues and FIFA if the European season is cut in half.
“The FA’s position will be you can’t play it in summer in Qatar,” said Dyke, who has been chairman for a month.
“FIFA therefore has two choices … you either move it in time or to another location.
“I suspect either ends up in some sort of litigation but then someone should have worked that out in 2010 when it was awarded. It’s genuinely becoming accepted that you can’t play it in Qatar in the summer.”
Theo Zwanziger, who joined FIFA’s executive committee after the 2010 vote, recently described the decision as a “blatant mistake”.
FIFA’s top administrator, Jerome Valcke, has insisted the bid documents allow the tournament to be rescheduled without opening itself up to legal challenges from the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia, who lost out to Qatar.
The US – a viable alternative host based on its existing infrastructure – has avoided criticising FIFA’s handling of the process.
While Dyke, a former head of the BBC, believes it is “more likely” the World Cup is played in winter, he will argue the case for finding a new host during meetings with Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini next month.
“It is up to FIFA to decide whether to keep in Qatar or move it into autumn or winter,” Dyke told journalists over lunch in London.
“That’s what the discussions will be of the next few months. I understand the reaction of the Premier League to not want to move it. I have some sympathy with them. They didn’t have to choose to give it to Qatar in the summer.”
There is also opposition from the German league, with Bundesliga chief executive Christian Seifert recently saying that a winter tournament could disrupt European football for three years, chiding FIFA for ignoring “leagues who are effectively the core and the heart of football”.
Qatar’s bid centred around the use of energy-sapping air-conditioned stadiums, but that only resolves the problem in venues for players, fans and officials and Dyke also highlighted environmental concerns.
“I don’t know how many people have been to Qatar in June – I have,” Dyke said. “The one thing I can tell you is you can’t play a football tournament in Qatar in June.
“Even if all the stadia are air-conditioned, which seems a bit strange in terms of the green policy, it would be impossible for the fans. Just go out there, wander around in that sort of heat.”