DUBAI // 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 because it would disrupt their league seasons.
Mohamed bin Hammam, a Qatari national who heads the AFC and is also a Fifa executive-committee member, said a winter tournament would ensure players are "in better shape" and would not be "exhausted" after completing a gruelling season that can run up to 60 games.
Since Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup, footballers past and present began calling for moving the tournament to January, when it is much cooler in Qatar.
But the big football clubs remain unconvinced, as they are reluctant to change the international calendar and likely would be 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," the 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 Sandro Rosell, the Barcelona president, downplayed concerns about the heat, noting that several previous World Cup tournaments were played in similar conditions to those of Qatar in the summer.
"I remember Spain in 1982 and the United States (in 1994). It was 40 degrees and no one complained," Rosell said.
Bin Hammam agreed that Qatar would have no problem organising the 2022 World Cup in July, but moving the tournament to the cooler winter months would be better for the players, he said.
"If the competition were held in June and July, it will perfectly organised by the host," bin Hammam said.
"If the competition would be moved to January, it will be a sort of win-win situation for all the parties."
Meanwhile, Fabio Capello, the England manager, has voiced his concerns over hosting the event in the Gulf in the summer.
"It will not be easy for the players to stay all day in the hotel, you can't run around the hotel," he told reporters at an event in Dubai yesterday.
"It's a big problem, not only for the training, you have to spend the time, all the day in the hotel, you can't go around to relax, to do something different."