ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - MAY 14: President of FIFA Sepp Blatter speaks during the 2018/2022 World Cup Bid Book Handover ceremony at FIFA Headquarters on May 14, 2010 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Winter World Cup? FIFA, Organization's President Giving Conflicting Prognoses

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Damage Control: FIFA Attempts To Quell Concerns, Claims No Current Plans To For Winter 2022 World Cup

FIFA has taken steps to cool the growing animosity toward a winter World Cup. Nearly two weeks after FIFA president Sepp Blatter told Qatari media has expected the 2022 World Cup to be staged in winter, the world's governing body has affirmed that no plans are in place for a winter World Cup, a statement that conveniently fails to contradict Blatter's assertions.

On the organization's web site today, FIFA issued a two-sentence statement addressing "media reports." The post said there are no current plans to change the FIFA calendar, and any proposed chance would have to be initiated by the Qataris:

At this stage there are no concrete plans to change the international match calendar.
Any potential move of the 2022 FIFA World Cup from a summer to a winter period would have to be initiated by the football association of Qatar and would have to be presented to the FIFA Executive Committee.

On January 7, Sepp Blatter, while in Qatar for the start of the Asian Cup, cited protecting players as a main motivator for moving the 2022 event away from its traditional summer schedule. Those comments were met with derision from some football press, with more controversial opinion questioning whether the 2022 World Cup would have been awarded to Qatar had such plans been presented with the original bid.

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FIFA Executive Committee Member Chuck Blazer Hits Out Against Possible January World Cup

A World Cup in January of 2022 is gaining more and more support and looks nearly inevitable and most of the power brokers in FIFA, at least those who have spoken up, appear to be in support of the idea, but now FIFA Executive Committee member Chuck Blazer has spoken out against the proposal. Blazer's chief concerns are with the transparency and equality in the bid process, but especially with the logistics of taking what he estimates could be 10 weeks out of the schedule to play the event in 2022.

Blazer is American and one of three Executive Committee remembers representing CONCACAF, the confederation that represents North America, Central American and the Caribbean. In bidding for the 2022 World Cup, he supported the United States' bid to host, a bid that finished second in voting to Qatar.

With Qatar set to host the 2022 World Cup, FIFA has said the tournament could be moved to January in an effort to avoid hosting the event in temperatures that often reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup in December by a vote of 22 FIFA Executive Committee members and the talk of a winter World Cup wasn't floated by FIFA members until after the vote.

"If you look at the timing of some of these announcements; pronouncements immediately after the vote from (Franz) Beckenbauer and (Michel) Platini and everyone else one after another, I am sure that these were ideas that had been discussed before," Blazer said on Monday.

"The issue of the heat trouble were never addressed by the candidate ... there was a certain incongruity to me that there are people who are really dedicated to their teams and to the sport who were not having any difficulty with the idea of playing in that level of heat on an ongoing basis throughout the tournament," said Blazer, who stated in December that he voted for the United States to host and had some unanswered questions about the Qatari bid.

"They very quickly, after the fact, made these statements saying 'oh yeah let's just switch.' I have some level of difficulty with that."

Most of all, Blazer questioned whether it was logistically possible to play the tournament in January. Some who support the calendar change have said that many league's take the Christmas and New Year's holidays off anyways and some don't come back to play until late January or February so it wouldn't be much of an issue. Blazer countered that by saying that it isn't just a matter of taking four weeks off to play the tournament, but also the preparation time teams need before the tournament.

"This isn't a matter of taking four weeks out of the winter and saying here is the World Cup. It is more a matter, at that point, of taking 10 weeks out of the winter and saying here, we are carving out an entire new summer in order to have proper preparation for the teams." Blazer said.

"The ultimate damage that we would be doing isn't something that should be done without due consideration."

The World Cup has always been held in the northern hemisphere's summer, typically in June and July. Blazer made clear that he isn't asking for the hosting duties to be put up for grabs once more with another vote and the January calendar known to all voters. Instead, he believes that all parties should be consulted and all issues evaluated before the possibility of making the calendar change is pushed forward.

"If the thought is to move it to winter, we should do a careful analysis involving all the stakeholders, clubs, leagues, coaches, players, everyone and sit down and figure out what is the best thing to do because moving it to winter has serious ramifications," said Blazer.

Going forward, Blazer believes that FIFA need to reconsider how they select World Cup hosts. He spoke about the bid evaluations that FIFA has always carried out, but that he believes don't carry enough weight. Specifically, he mentioned that the summer heat in Qatar was mentioned in the bid's evaluation report, but prior to the vote, that concern was never addressed and is instead being addressed now.

"I think the process where we send people out to each of the venues, to do a comprehensive report and they come back and present that report and nobody asks any questions about it and nobody spends any time dealing with the issues of the report, certainly sells the reports short, or even ourselves short," he said, adding that reform of the process should be on the agenda.

"Somehow we have to be certain that we take matters like that seriously into consideration, I'm not sure how we go about doing that - maybe the inspection gets a certain amount of weight, maybe votes get another weight. I don't know, but we have got eight years to figure that out ... before we vote on 2026," he said.

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UEFA President Joins Chorus Of Those Calling For Schedule Change

With it looking increasingly likely that the World Cup will be moved to the winter in 2022 to accommodate the harsh summers in Qatar, there's a growing chorus of soccer mover and shakers who are pushing various leagues to adjust their schedules accordingly. The latest person to add his voice to such a move is UEFA President Michel Platini. The Bloomberg article says Platini first suggested such a move in 1998.

"My proposal to Blatter was to play from February to December," Platini said. "FIFA was close to accepting, then Italy and Spain said no because we want to play in winter."

This year especially, we've seen some of the problems with playing such a significant chunk of the European season during the winter. Games all over England and continent were canceled because of heavy snow. Other teams have lost players to the Asian federation's championship, which is happening now.

MLS is one of the few leagues in the world that does not play at all during the winter. Their season ends in November and doesn't start again until March. Commissioner Don Garber has said the league would explore splitting its schedule so that it would more closely align with the rest of the world, but the promise of a winter World Cup would probably end that discussion.

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One Step Closer To Reality: Winter 2022 World Cup Expected For Qatar, Says FIFA President Sepp Blatter

The likelihood of FIFA staging its first winter World Cup come 2022 has gone from possible to expected, with the governing body's president saying the issue will be addressed at an executive committee meeting in March. Citing a want to protect the players from Qatar's summer heat, Sepp Blatter said he "expected" the 2022 World Cup to be shifted to winter, saying FIFA's executive committee has the power to enact such a change.

In Doha for the Asian Cup, Blatter gave the first indication that a shift from a summer tournament should be expected in Qatar. From AFP's report:

"I expect it to be in the winter because when you play football you must protect the main people, the players," he said at a media roundtable in the Qatari capital Doha ahead of the Asian Cup, which kicks off later Friday.

"We will take it up at our executive committee meeting in March."

Blatter's comments have already caused some to note the possible change from Qatar's bid specifications, where the emirate proposed building climate controlled stadia to stave off average summer temperatures that average around 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The implicit question: Why was Qatar awarded the 2022, and within months the date is being moved? Isn't this something that should have been addressed when the bid was awarded?

For Blatter, such distinctions are irrelevant, as the executive committee working in consort with the country's organizing committee hold the power to deviate from the bid. Again, per the AFP report:

"[Qatar] need to bring together an organising committee, then if they have any wishes on whether they want to change the basic conditions prevailing at the bidding process, then they have to make this demand of the FIFA Executive Committee," he said.

"The Executive Committee is free to change anything," he added.

"If there really is a will to change dates then we have enough time to do it because we still have 11 years to go."

A change to winter has the support of (from those cited in the report) UEFA president Michael Platini, Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti, England boss Fabio Capello, and Frank Beckenbauer, the German legend being one of the first to note the need for a change. Amongst those who've called the idea "nonsense" or "crazy" are Wolverhampton Wanderers' manager Mick McCarthy and Ian Holloway, manager at Blackpool.

Arsène Wenger add a touch of continental dissent. The Arsenal manager, noting the idea deviates from the original Qatar proposal, voices the logical, common concerns, From the Evening Standard:

But the Arsenal boss believes the proposition is unrealistic and would deepen the rift between football's governing body and England after being snubbed in the bidding process to stage the 2018 competition. Wenger said: "It looks like an idea that has come out of nowhere because nobody was told that when the bid was voted for.

"That would demand a complete reorganisation of the world's fixtures. It would create many problems between clubs and countries and countries and FIFA."

This year, most players had from mid-to-late-May to prepare for a tournament that began on June 11. Spain beat the Netherlands one month later, after which players did not see league action until late August or September, giving most more than one month off. A minimum of six-to-seven weeks would need to be set aside in the middle of the season, but perhaps as significant where issues of player fatigue always surface after a World Cup, many players could see the last half of their club campaigns compromised by the mid-season work load.

There are seemingly innumerable arguments for and against a winter World Cup, arguments we have 11 years to quantify and wage. With a switch on the verge of becoming a reality, the debate takes on a new, more significant meaning. Whereas before we were discussing hypotheses, now we're on the brink of theory: a winter World Cup can be waged, with FIFA planning to provide the proof.

What are your views on a winter World Cup? Vote below and let us know in the comments. The soccer world is just starting to wrestle with the implications of such a move.

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