x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Fifa's Qatari member softens stance on holding 2022 World Cup in winter

The Qatari representative on the Fifa committee moves from earlier stance to neutral saying any discussion on the timing be held only after the 2018 Finals.

DOHA // The Fifa executive committee member Mohamed bin Hammam is open to discuss changing the 2022 World Cup to the cooler winter months.

The Qatari, who is also the president of the Asian Football Confederation, has repeatedly said that he wants the World Cup to be in the summer months. But on Thursday, Bin Hammam softened his stance.

"I'm not opposed but I'm not proposing," Bin Hammam said, adding that any discussion should not take place until after 2018, when Russia will host the World Cup.

The Fifa president Sepp Blatter has supported moving the tournament to avoid the searing heat in Qatar, and several other top football executives in Europe have agreed.

Fifa executive committee member Franz Beckenbauer was the first to suggest the idea, and he was followed by Uefa President Michel Platini. Blatter said it was worth studying and FIFPro, which represents professional football players worldwide, said the event "must be held in winter."

But the big football clubs remain unconvinced. They are reluctant to change the international calendar and are concerned over a loss of revenue from breaking up the season.

Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup last month despite concerns over temperatures which routinely exceed 40 degrees celsius. Soon after it beat out the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea, a growing list of football executives began calling for moving the tournament to January when it is much cooler in Qatar.

In December, Bin Hammam told a football conference that it would benefit players to move the tournament to January. He said a winter World Cup would ensure players would be in better shape and wouldn't be exhausted after completing a grueling season.

But last week, he told Sky News that Qatar would be "ready in June, July and we said we are going to face all the challenges and we are going to meet all the requirement. Our focus is June, July."

Bin Hammam, who is considering a possible run for the Fifa presidency, also told that he sympathises with the European clubs which would be hit hardest by a change.