FIFA will begin talks with world football officials on Monday to explore dates for Qatar to host the World Cup in winter, according to news reports.
Football’s world governing body will open its first consultation meeting at its Geneva headquarters on Sept. 8 with representatives from the six continental confederations, clubs, leagues and players’ unions, Associated Press said.
The meeting will be led by Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa of Bahrain, and a follow up meeting has been scheduled for November.
The global tournament is traditionally held in June and July, the traditional off-season for many professional leagues.
However, there has been significant controversy over the prospect of matches being played in Qatar during the summer, when the temperature is regularly in the 40s and humidity levels climb.
While Qatar has promised to develop and install cooling technology in its World Cup stadia, many critics still argue that hosting a summertime tournament in the Gulf state would be hazardous for players and spectators alike.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter earlier this year admitted that it had been an “error” to award Qatar the rights to host a summer World Cup.
Before Qatar won its bid, FIFA’s own technical report highlighted significant problems with holding the tournament in Qatar during the summer, due to the high temperatures.
“Of course, it was a mistake … But you know, one makes a lot of mistakes in life. The technical report for Qatar stated that summer temperatures were too high. However, the executive committee of FIFA decided to award the World Cup to Qatar with a broad majority despite this,” Blatter said.
Blatter, as well as FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, have previously mused about moving the kick-off date in November 2022.
The FIFA president has also said he’d like the dates to be finalized by March 2015.
However, the European clubs and leagues in particular have been opposed to moving the World Cup to the winter, which would mean introducing an eight-week break at the height of the football season.
The European Professional Football Leagues, which represents 844 clubs in 22 countries, issued a statement earlier this year saying that shifting the dates would have an adverse effect on timetables for domestic matches, and would harm leagues’ business interests.
American broadcaster Fox – which paid a record amount for the broadcasting rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups – is also reported to oppose shifting the tournament to the winter out of concern that it would clash with its coverage of National Football League games.
Qatar’s tournament organizers say the country is still preparing to host the event during the summer.
In an interview earlier this summer with Al Jazeera, the Supreme Committee of Delivery & Legacy’s communications director Nasser al Khater said: “Let us be honest, we can host a World Cup in the summer.”
“We are waiting on the task force to come back and make the recommendations.
“Our plans won’t change, we are going to be ready to host the World Cup in 2022, whether it is the winter or summer of 2022,” he added.
Qatar’s SCDL has said that its stadia, training grounds, public areas and walkways will use environmentally-friendly cooling technology to keep players, officials and fans at a comfortable temperature.
A prototype of one of these cooling systems was successfully trialed in the open-air fan zone at Katara Cultural Village in July, during screenings of 2014 World Cup matches.
However, a report published in the International Journal of Biometeorology last month warned that spectators could face “strong heat stress” if the tournament took place in the height of the summer.
Based on its findings, it recommended holder the tournament sometime between November and February, “when thermally comfortable conditions are much more frequent.”