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SBD Global/September 11, 2013/International Football

European Clubs Urge FIFA To Avoid Hasty Decision On 2022 Qatar World Cup Switch

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FIFA President Sepp Blatter downplayed his comments about Qatar being a 'mistake' to host the 2022 World Cup.
Europe's biggest football leagues and clubs urged FIFA to avoid rescheduling the Qatar 2022 World Cup to the winter "until an assessment has been carried out," according to Ben Priechenfried of BLOOMBERG. The Switzerland-based Association of European Professional Football Leagues said "the side effects on the international calendar of a possible rescheduling should be assessed through an extensive fact-based analysis." The FIFA exec committee is to meet in Zurich on Oct. 3-4 "to discuss the possible switch to the European winter from the traditional summer schedule." The European Club Association, which is holding its general assembly in Geneva, "echoed the EPFL's request for more time before making a decision." The body, which represents 214 of the continent's top teams, said in a statement that "it will discuss the matter with stakeholders including national associations, leagues and players." The ECA said, "We are not in a hurry" (BLOOMBERG, 9/10). REUTERS' Brian Homewood wrote as well as disrupting club competitions, the EPFL said that "a date change would have an impact on player contracts and the transfer system which is based on a European season running from August to May." It also noted a potentially damaging clash with the 2022 Winter Olympics, "another major attraction for sponsors and broadcasters" (REUTERS, 9/10).

BLATTER BACKTRACK: REUTERS' Ossian Shine reported FIFA President Sepp Blatter rejected media reports claiming he thought "it may have been a mistake to choose Qatar as hosts for the 2022 World Cup." Blatter said, "No, it was not a mistake because by the rotation it was time to go to the Arabic world. And now here we are in the Arab world. It is not a very big country, but it is a very important one. So the decision was absolutely in the context of the politics of FIFA and especially in the context of the politics of this president." Blatter said that "the decision to play the tournament in the middle of the year was the mistake, not the selection of Qatar as hosts" (REUTERS, 9/10).

OPINION SHIFT: In London, Andy Hodgson wrote Europe's top clubs "have stated for the first time that they are open to the idea of the 2022 World Cup being played in the winter." The statement by ECA Chair Karl-Heinz Rummenigge "represents a big shift in opinion." Rummenigge said, "Having the World Cup in Qatar is not a mistake. We are requesting a solution which in the end is not affecting too much our business. ... I believe there is no hurry and I don't understand why FIFA would like an early decision at the next executive committee meeting in October because the 2022 World Cup is nine years away. That is more than enough to take a very sensible and prudent [decision] in the best interests of football so all stakeholders in the football family can be happy with a possible change in the season for Qatar" (EVENING STANDARD, 9/10). 

WHAT'S THE RUSH? INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL's Andrew Warshaw wrote ECA Vice Chair Umberto Gandini said that "there were far too many aspects that had to be taken into consideration before FIFA announces an actual replacement date." Gandini: "Blatter says Europe no longer dominates. Fine, no problem, but what about all those teams that will have to stop playing because of a change of World Cup dates? What about cash flow for clubs who have to pay salaries to players who are not playing? How can they pay the bills without playing competitions? And what about countries who don't qualify? These are practical problems. It's not just a question of moving, period. The question is, to when? Our position is, don't rush into a decision" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 9/10).

CLIMATE CHANGE: In N.Y., Rob Hughes wrote "it is believed that Blatter himself did not vote for Qatar," but for the U.S. UEFA President Michel Platini "openly supported Qatar, and very soon after the vote, he voiced his opinion that the event should be moved from summer to winter." The desert heat of June and July "has always been a daunting, and obvious, prospect for players and for spectators." Yet, for whatever reason, the FIFA exec committee "decided to go there" over bids from Australia, the U.S., Japan and South Korea. Given where we are now, "the summer-to-winter shift seems the least-worst scenario" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/10). ARABIAN BUSINESS' Anil Bhoyrul opined whichever spin anyone puts on it, "this is the reality today: none of the big teams want to play a summer World Cup in Qatar and most would probably boycott it." FIFA is about to announce a plan to move the tournament to the winter -- "this will almost certainly prompt a legal challenge from the countries that lost out on the bid," including Australia and the U.S. In all probability, "the 2022 World Cup hosting rights will end up in the courts for several years and have to be rebid." It is, "at best, a complete mess." At worst, "a total, utter and complete shambles -- none of which is of Qatar's making or Qatar's fault" (ARABIAN BUSINESS, 9/10).
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