DUBAI, United Arab Emirates » The head of the Asian Football Confederation supports moving the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to the winter months to avoid the desert heat, but European clubs AC Milan and Barcelona oppose the move.
Mohamed bin Hammam, a Qatari national who is also a FIFA executive committee member, said yesterday a winter tournament would ensure players would be in better shape and wouldn’t be exhausted after completing a grueling season that can run up to 60 games.
Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup this month despite concerns over temperatures which routinely exceed 104 degrees. Soon after it beat out the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea for the competition, a growing list of soccer executives began calling for moving the tournament to January when it is much cooler in Qatar.
FIFA executive committee member Franz Beckenbauer was the first to suggest the idea, and he was followed by UEFA president Michel Platini. FIFA president Sepp Blatter said it was worthy studying and FIFPro, which represents professional soccer players worldwide, said the event "must be held in winter."
But the big soccer clubs remain unconvinced. They’re reluctant to change the international calendar and concerned over a loss of revenue from breaking up the season.
"It would be very difficult today to see the top five European leagues change their calendar in order to accommodate the World Cup in January," AC Milan director Umberto Gandini said on the sidelines of the two-day Globe Soccer conference in Dubai.
"We have traditions. We have business in place. We have contracts in place," he said. "It would be complicated. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but it would require a lot of negotiations, a lot of discussions and it would probably affect not only 2022 but 2021 as well."
Gandini and Barcelona president Sandro Rosell also downplayed concerns about the heat, noting several previous World Cup tournaments were played in conditions similar to those of Qatar in the summer.
Bin Hammam agreed Qatar would have no problem organizing the 2022 World Cup in July. But moving the tournament to the cooler winter months would be better for the players, he said.