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Volume 10 No. 23

International Football

The "controversial decision" on whether to switch the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to winter "will be postponed" until a FIFA task force has "reported on whether it is possible," according to Mihir Bose of the London INDEPENDENT. It was thought that a decision on moving the tournament, due to "the searing summer heats in the Middle East," could be made this week at FIFA's exec meeting in Zurich -- but "a remarkable U-turn has taken place." Members of FIFA, broadcasters and representatives of the European leagues "will be part of the task force that analyse if such a switch is possible." One "highly placed" FIFA source said, "It was always media hype to expect the executive to come to such a decision this week without looking at all the consequences. The World Cup is nine years away and there is no need to rush to make a decision." One reason for FIFA backing away from an immediate decision is that several TV companies, particularly in North America, who have paid huge sums to broadcast the World Cup, have told Blatter that a winter tournament "would not suit their schedules." A World Cup in late June and early July "is ideal as it is the slack sports season for these broadcasters." Their agreement with FIFA "is believed to include clauses which gives them the right to be consulted about the date" (INDEPENDENT, 10/3). The BBC's Richard Conway reported Britain FIFA VP Jim Boyce "is prepared to back a decision in principle to move the World Cup to the winter," but thinks that "it is too early to decide on the exact timing." On Thursday, Football League Chair Greg Clarke, who was part of England's 2018 bid delegation three years ago when Qatar won the vote for 2022, said that FIFA "should run the vote again rather than switch the tournament to the winter." Clarke: "It should be like any public tender process and if the tender isn't valid, then have a new one" (BBC, 10/3).

FOOTBALL FAMILY: BLOOMBERG's Ben Priechenfried reported European Club Association Chair Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said that FIFA "must include teams and players in any decision on rescheduling" the event. Rummenigge: "The fact that at the last World Cup 75 percent of all participant players were contracted in Europe is a fact that can’t be shifted away." Rummenigge said FIFA’s decision on the issue should involve the entire “footballing family” of clubs, leagues and players. Rummenigge: "We have to be sitting at the table when it comes to a final decision. We want to avoid a decision that will cause too much impact on the leagues and the clubs" (BLOOMBERG, 10/3). The PA reported FIFA spokesperson Walter De Gregorio "has moved to end that debate before it gathers momentum." When asked if it would be played in Qatar, De Gregorio said, "No doubt. What is open to question is if we play in winter, and if so is it November, December, January, I don't know. ... But there is no doubt we will play in Qatar" (PA SPORT 10/3).

QATAR HAPPY: REUTERS' Brian Homewood reported Qatar "is happy to accommodate a change in the dates" for the World Cup, while insisting that "it can still stage the tournament in summer." Qatar said that it was "researching and developing cooling technologies" which could be used "in our stadiums, training pitches, fan zones and public areas." However, the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee said on Wednesday that it "would not object to a move away from the originally scheduled summer tournament if asked." The committee said in a statement, "If the international football community reaches a consensus to move the event to an alternate date, we are able to accommodate that change" (REUTERS, 10/3). In London, Roger Blitz reported construction worries about next year’s World Cup in Brazil "should be uppermost for the game’s governing body, but it is the tournament still nine years away that is proving just as troublesome." The Qatar World Cup saga "is an almighty mess" for FIFA. Friday’s meeting "will also weigh up allegations about the exploitation of migrant workers and the death toll on construction projects related to the competition." Canceling its World Cup "is an unlikely outcome." There "may be compensation claims to face by rescheduling the tournament," from the U.S. and other losing bidders, including Australia and Japan, who would argue that "the bidding competition stipulated a June event." However, it would "be a small price to pay compared to incurring the wrath of Qatar," whose investment in football, through clubs such as Paris St. Germain and Barcelona, "is substantial and growing." Moreover, the U.S. "may conclude it is not worth jeopardising its own strategic relations with Qatar for the sake of a football tournament" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 10/3).

Ukraine's World Cup qualifier at home against Poland next week "will be played in front of supporters after FIFA temporarily went back on its ruling that the match be staged behind closed doors." FIFA said on Thursday that "the ban had been lifted under the so-called 'suspensive effect' after Ukraine appealed" (REUTERS, 10/4). ... Swiss side FC Basel "could face disciplinary action" after Greenpeace activists briefly interrupted its Champions League match on Tuesday, "unfurling a huge banner inside the stadium aimed at Russian-owned Gazprom." UEFA said that Basel "had been charged with 'inadequate organisation' of the game" (SWISS INFO, 10/2). ... London Tube passengers "can now kick off their day by heading to stations renamed after football legends." Leytonstone is now David Beckham, after his birthplace -- on the Goalscorers line rather than the Central line. Arsenal is Jack Wilshere and Upton Park is Bobby Moore "on the special edition map" (London MIRROR, 10/3). ... Argentine first division side River Plate "disobeyed Argentina's government, but the 1,710 fans that bought tickets in River's Centenario Alta section will pay more of the price for this than the team." The Centenario Alta section was closed for Sunday's "Superclasico" derby against Boca Juniors by Argentina's Security Commission, which made the decision on Wednesday. Argentina Deputy Security Secretary Dario Ruiz said the "punishment will first be a section closing, but could be more later" (CLARIN, 10/3).