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Old 9th January 2014, 13:34   #1
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Default Confusion reigns after Fifa official says Qatar World Cup will not be in summer

Confusion reigns after Fifa official says Qatar World Cup will not be in summer

• Jim Boyce says he is 'totally, completely shocked'
• Fifa says no decision has been made

Owen Gibson
The Guardian, Wednesday 8 January 2014 14.54 GMT

Jérôme Valcke, the Fifa secretary general, has given the clearest signal yet that the World Cup in Qatar will be moved to November 2022, amid a day of farcical mixed messages from world football's governing body.

Valcke, who is supposed to be leading an ongoing consultation over whether the tournament should move from June when temperatures can hit 50C, told a French radio station the tournament was likely to be held between 15 November 2022 and 15 January 2023.

Confirming publicly what many in football have privately suspected for some time – that the Qatar World Cup is most likely to be held in November 2022 – Valcke stated the tournament "will not be in June or July".

"Frankly I think it'll be played between November 15 and January 15 at the latest," he said. "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 25C, therefore it's perfect for football".

Fifa, whose president, Sepp Blatter, was forced to row back from an earlier declaration that the tournament would be moved after fierce protests from US broadcasters and European leagues, hurriedly insisted Valcke was speaking in a personal capacity.

"As the event will not be played until eight years' time the consultation process will not be rushed and will be given the necessary time to consider all of the elements relevant for a decision," it said in a statement. "Consequently, no decision will be taken before the upcoming 2014 Fifa World Cup Brazil as agreed by the Fifa executive committee."

After launching a consultation process in October, Blatter said before the World Cup draw in Brazil last month that no decision would officially be taken until December this year. But Valcke appears to have made up his mind, despite later hinting there may be no official confirmation until 2015.

The Premier League and other European leagues are concerned about the ramifications for their media deals, player contracts and schedules, while US broadcasters are unhappy about a potential clash with the NFL season.

The International Olympic Committee has already made it clear that the tournament should not clash with the 2022 Winter Olympics, despite the Uefa president, Michel Platini, favouring January because it does not clash with the Champions League group stages.

Britain's Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce said he was "totally surprised" by Valcke's comments, saying there was an "expectation" that the World Cup would not be played in the summer but no final decision had been made.

Coincidentally, the chairman of the Association of European Football Leagues met Blatter and Valcke in Zurich on Wednesday. The EPFL was one of the most outspoken critics of Fifa's original apparent determination to press ahead with the move without consultation.

"I can easily confirm to you that Fifa's position as to the timing of the 2022 World Cup has not changed since its executive committee of last October 3: a wide consultation process and no hasty decision, as the EPFL had requested," said the chairman, Frédéric Thiriez, who is also chairman of the French league. "In other words: 'Nothing new under the sun.'"
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