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FIFA Considers Proposal To Move 2022 Qatar World Cup To Winter


Soccer's international governing body, FIFA, is a step closer to having its first-ever wintertime World Cup. Today, a special FIFA task force recommended that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar be staged in November and December. Normally, the men's World Cup is held in summer months. But in Qatar, summer is hot - really hot. It's expected that this recommendation will be finalized next month, but there is a lot of criticism of it. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us now. And Tom, to start, what else can you tell us about this recommendation from the FIFA task force?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Well, Robert, it explained how it kind of wedged this World Cup into these winter months because of the weather and because of competing events. The 2022 Winter Olympic, it points out, will be in February of that year. The month of Ramadan begins in early April. May to September are the consistently hot months in Qatar. So the only remaining effective option, as FIFA put it, is the November-December window.

SIEGEL: But plenty of people are saying it's not so effective. Where is that criticism coming from?

GOLDMAN: Pretty much everywhere outside of FIFA, although FIFA says in its statement the November-December plan has the full support of soccer's six main governing bodies around the world. But this will be hugely disruptive to domestic leagues whose seasons are underway during November and December - the wildly popular English Premier league, the big leagues in Italy, Spain and Germany, other non-European leagues as well. Peter Coates, manager of Stoke City of the Premier League, said this - it's a disaster and everyone knows it. It will come down to how we manage it, which we will do with great difficulty. The only saving grace is we have seven years to plan for it, but we are stuck with it and have to get on with it. It couldn't be more messy.

Also, the European Club Association wants FIFA to compensate the major soccer clubs. They'll have to give up their best players midseason, who will go play for the national teams during the World Cup.

SIEGEL: Any impact here in the U.S?

GOLDMAN: Well, it'll affect broadcasting in the U.S. The World Cup now will compete with the NFL and college football. And people will still watch the World Cup, but it won't create the same buzz as it would if it were essentially the only big event in June-July. And advertisers pay attention to buzz and pay higher rates for it. So Fox Sports, which has the contract to televise the 2022 World Cup, can't be too happy about this change.

SIEGEL: Tom, let's get real here for a moment.


SIEGEL: FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar in 2010. It has taken them five years to realize that Qatar is sweltering in June and July and probably not the best time? People were saying this all during 2010.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, yeah. And FIFA knew it and ignored its own reports even. An article in Business Insider today recounts how FIFA published an official evaluation of Qatar's bid in 2010. And it included the following statement - the fact that the competition is planned in June and July, the two hottest month the year in this region, has to be considered as a potential health risk for players, spectators, officials and the FIFA family in both open training sites and in stadiums.

You know, Robert, this feeds into a widely-shared belief that Qatar was the wrong place all along, not only because of the heat but corruption and bribery allegations that have never really been cleared up, horrible working conditions for migrant workers building the World Cup infrastructure. But the show will go on, and FIFA's not moving the event despite the criticisms and the extra money it'll probably have to pay out to compensate for changing the dates.

SIEGEL: OK, Tom. Thank you.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman on the recommendation that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar be moved from summer to winter. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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