x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Fifa’s medical chief says Qatar 2022 World Cup must be moved to winter

Michel D'Hooghe plans to advise executive committee that Arabian Gulf state will be too hot for fans.

A huge sculpture of the Fifa World Cup trophy is pictured by the sea front in Doha, Qatar. The FIFA World Cup 2022 will take place in Qatar. Nadine Rupp / Getty Images
A huge sculpture of the Fifa World Cup trophy is pictured by the sea front in Doha, Qatar. The FIFA World Cup 2022 will take place in Qatar. Nadine Rupp / Getty Images

Fifa’s medical chief will tell a landmark meeting next month – where a decision will be made on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar – that the tournament must be moved to the winter to protect the fans.

Michel D’Hooghe, the chairman of the Fifa medical committee, will advise the executive committee that the risks of hundreds of thousands of supporters moving between venues in the extreme heat are too great.

The committee is expected to agree in principle to move the World Cup to the winter, most likely in November/December 2022, and then embark on a six-month exercise to hammer out how it will affect the international calendar and the domestic leagues.

D’Hooghe’s comments came as the Fifa member for the United States, Sunil Gulati, said he was prepared to “rock the boat” and demand more time before making a decision.

But as the world governing body’s medical chief, D’Hooghe’s strong report favouring a move will make a significant impact.

D’Hooghe said: “My position is very clear. From the medical point of view I think it will be better not to play during the hot summer months.

“I am sure the Qataris could organise it when they have such technical skill and I know they could play and train in a stable, acceptable temperature.

“But the World Cup is more than about games and players – I have done eight World Cups so I know a bit about it.

“A World Cup is about the 32 delegations, it’s about the whole Fifa family and the 12,000-15,000 media working very hard, and most importantly it’s about the fans.

“They will need to travel from venue to venue and I think it’s not a good idea for them to do that in temperatures of 47 degrees [Celsius] or more.”

The European leagues have also asked for a delay in any decision to give them time to look at the impact the move would have on them – it will not be just one season as the 2021 Confederations Cup will also have to be in the winter, and there will be a knock-on effect to the seasons on either side.

D’Hooghe believes those issues can be sorted out.

“It’s a technical question – I’m a medical man. I think we have nine years to sort it out,” he said.

“I respect the difficulties that there may be with some championships.

“I just have to give the medical advice and for the rest it would be a good thing to get everyone around the table to find a solution.”

* Press Association