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SBD Global/September 17, 2013/International Football

FIFA Medical Chief To Issue Warning Over Heat Risks At 2022 Qatar Summer World Cup

FIFA's medical chief "will tell next month's landmark meeting to decide on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar that the tournament must be moved to the winter to protect the fans," according to Martyn Ziegler of the PA. FIFA's medical committee Chair Michel D'Hooghe "will advise the executive committee that the risks of hundreds of thousands of supporters moving between venues in the extreme heat are too great." The committee "is now expected to agree in principle to move the World Cup to the winter, most likely in November/December 2022, and then embark on a six-month exercise to hammer out how it will affect the international calendar and the domestic leagues." D'Hooghe's comments came as FIFA member Sunil Gulati of the U.S. said he was prepared to "rock the boat" and demand more time before making a decision (PA, 9/16). The AP reported FIFA VP Jeffrey Webb said that "players are the most important factor" in a debate on switching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from summer to winter. He said, "If something is not good for the players then it's not good for the game." Much of the winter World Cup debate "has centered on forcing wealthy European clubs and leagues, plus the Champions League, to alter their traditional schedules." Webb, from the Cayman Islands, acknowledged that some of his CONCACAF leagues "would be required to change." Major League Soccer, which runs from March to November, "is one of the least affected" (AP, 9/12).

A CHANGE POSSIBLE? SOCCEREX reported Qatar 2022 General Secretary Hassan Al-Thawadi "has rejected calls for the country’s World Cup hosting rights to be awarded to another nation, stating the Middle East deserves the chance to host a major football tournament." He said, "We’ve worked very, very hard to ensure we’re within the rules of the bidding, within the rules of the hosting agreement. At the same time we’re delivering on all the promises that we’ve made. We’re working very hard to deliver it. The commitment is there. (Qatar) is the right place; the Middle East is the right place. We are representing the Middle East; it is a Middle Eastern World Cup. The Middle East deserves to host a major tournament" (SOCCEREX, 9/16). In. N.Y., Sam Borden reported the U.S.' most influential football administrator, Gulati, said "he will try to block any move by FIFA to switch the Qatar 2022 World Cup to winter." Gulati, whose country "was unexpectedly beaten by the tiny Gulf state to stage the tournament when the vote was taken three years ago," said that he will oppose any attempt by FIFA's exec committee to change the dates of the tournament when it meets on Oct. 3-4. Gulati: "I don't see at this stage, frankly, how I or any member of FIFA's executive committee could make a sensible decision. If the position I'm taking -- which is that we need a lot more information -- is rocking the boat. Then I'm going to be rocking the boat" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/14).
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