World Cup of chaos, fears Wilkinson

HOWARD WILKINSON has warned that moving the 2022 Qatar World Cup from summer to winter will cause chaos to the football and sporting calendar – and insists that staging the competition there in the first place was wrong.

Howard Wilkinson

The four-week tournament now looks set to start in mid-November after FIFA’s secretary general Jerome Valcke stated that it “will not be in June or July” in a radio interview.

Valcke, tasked with looking at alternative dates due to the intense summer heat in Qatar, says it is likely to be held between November 15 and January 15.

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FIFA insists that remains his personal view and that no decision has been made – but it looks certain to be in the winter of 2022 with November the likely date.

Widely-respected ex-FA technical director Wilkinson, who has twice taken caretaker charge of England and also managed the Under-21s, says that any winter tournament would have major ramifications for other competitions across the globe, with an African Cup of Nations scheduled for January 2023.

It would also potentially affect the running of the domestic league and cups and the Uefa Champions League and Europa League.

Winter sports federations have also previously expressed concerns over any World Cup possibly being moved to November, which would coincide with the start of skiing, sliding and skating seasons and affect those sports.

While the conditions towards the end of the year would be more preferable for players and spectators in Qatar, Wilkinson still retains many wider concerns about its staging in Qatar, as do legions of football supporters.

On the proposed move of the competition, Wilkinson, part of the FA Commission tasked with deciding the best way forward for English football, said: “It would be a plausible solution if the World Cup competition was the only international one that took place in the calendar year, but it doesn’t.

“There are two concerns. One of course is climate and health for the spectators as well as players. The other one is the sporting world in general.

“So for the life of me, it is baffling how one of the world’s premier (sporting) competitions, if not the premier competition, can be held in a place which in many, many respects is not conducive. One to the effective running of the tournament and two, the family that is sport.

“I’ve got concerns about it being held there as far as performance and spectators are concerned, health-wise. Then after that, there is the fact that a competition that has always been held in June gets moved into a period across what is bound to fall across the world-accepted calendar. Whether it be Olympics, Commonwealth Games, world championships or Rugby Union World Cup. The list goes on.”

Valcke has been in close contact with Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore and has agreed to avoid any clash with Christmas fixtures.

He also needs to avoid the winter Olympics in the February of 2022 which leaves November as the only realistic option.

Valcke said: “It will not be in June or July.

“Frankly I think it’ll be played between November 15 and January 15 at the latest.

“If you play between November 15 and the end of the year, that’s when the weather is at its most favourable.”

Valcke suggested it will be “like a warm spring in Europe” with “an average temperature of 25 degrees, therefore (making it) perfect for football”.

FIFA said in a statement that Valcke was expressing his own view and that no decision would be taken on the timing before this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.

The statement said: “Secretary General Jerome Valcke explained in the Radio France interview – as he had already mentioned previously – that in his view the 2022 FIFA World Cup must take place in winter and the best possible timeframe would be November 15 to January 15.

“However, the precise event date is still subject to an ongoing consultation process which involves all main event stakeholders, including both the international football community (FIFA, confederations, member associations, leagues, clubs, players) as well as FIFA’s commercial partners (commercial affiliates and media rights licensees).”

Both the Premier League and Football Association refused to comment on the developments yesterday.

English football’s two powerbrokers have differing views on whether the 2022 World Cup should be moved from the summer.

The Premier League are leading club opposition in Europe because of the affect a switch to the winter would have on their domestic seasons.

Chief executive Scudamore has previously said: “We can’t just, on a whim, decide to move to the winter. It’s extremely difficult, nigh on impossible in our view.

“There’s a whole series of complications and consultation has to be separate with leagues on a global basis to make sure it works for everyone before a decision is made.”

The Premier League are known to be keen on getting the support of the FA in the matter, though that appeared to diminish in August when chairman Greg Dyke said a summer tournament in Qatar would be unsustainable.

Both parties remain involved in a consultation process with other major stakeholders, agreed by FIFA.

The understanding is that consultation will continue beyond the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.