World Cup 2022: European clubs want May date for Qatar finals

By Richard ConwayBBC Radio 5 live sports news correspondent
A crowd at a football match in Qatar
Qatar is the smallest country ever to be chosen to host a World Cup

Europe's biggest football clubs could ask world governing body Fifa to play the Qatar 2022 World Cup in May.

Qatar won the right to stage the World Cup in 2010 but an inquiry over moving games from the hot summer months has been ongoing for more than a year.

The European Club Association (ECA), which includes Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, discussed May 2022 as a potential date.

The ECA believes a tournament in spring would cause minimum disruption.

What is the European Club Association?
Representative body made up 214 European top football clubs
Formed in 2008 by 16 founder members including Manchester United, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid
Also includes Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain
Each of Uefa's 53 national associations is represented by at least one club
Chaired by former West Germany player Karl-Heinz Rummenigge

However, the body that represents Europe's biggest football leagues insists the tournament must be played in the "summer period" as planned.

The Association of European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) is made up of 21 leagues including the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga and League Un in France.

"The EPFL considers that any re-scheduling of the World Cup would be damaging to the domestic competitions and the leagues' business and sporting interests," EPFL chairman Frederic Thiriez said.

Questions were raised almost immediately after Qatar won the right to host the tournament about the Gulf state's suitability, given the intense heat the country experiences in June and July, the traditional time slot for the tournament.

Qatar 2022's organisers have always insisted they can play host in the summer, pointing to their plan to use air-cooling technology to lower temperatures within stadiums and fan zones.

And this week, Harold Mayne-Nicholls, who led Fifa's technical commission which assessed each bid for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, also suggested an earlier tournament, with games kicking off in the early hours of the morning.

Fifa announced a consultation process last October given rising safety concerns over playing matches at a time of year when temperatures often exceed 40°c.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter reiterated earlier this week that the tournament should be moved to November and December 2022.

Qatar win right to host 2022 World Cup

"We cannot play the World Cup in summer," said Blatter. "The date which is the most convenient is the end of the year because to play at the beginning of 2022 is when the Winter Olympics take place."

Blatter has provided assurances to the International Olympic Committee that there will be no clash between the World Cup and Winter Olympics, which is due to take place in either Kazakhstan or China in February 2022.

The focus among world football officials up until now has been on halting domestic football leagues in order to play the tournament in November and December.

However, that proposal is believed to be unpalatable to many in Europe given the disruption it would cause to fixture lists and to the lucrative Uefa Champions League.

Proposed Qatar 2022 Stadium in Doha
An artist's impression of one of the proposed 'air-cooled' stadiums in Doha

With more than 75% of players at this year's World Cup in Brazil registered with European clubs, the ECA is a significant and strong voice in the current negotiations.

All three dates that are currently under discussion (June/July, November/December and January/February) present significant issues to European clubs.

Following a board meeting held in London earlier this month, the ECA is now seriously considering pushing May as their preferred solution.

Temperatures in Qatar during May are about 35°C, rising steadily as the month goes on.

One source close to the talks told BBC Sport that such heat levels could prove acceptable to Fifa, given similar temperatures at previous World Cups such as Mexico in 1986, USA in 1994 and Japan/South Korea in 2002.

Breaks in play to allow players to drink water and cool down because of high on-field temperatures featured at this summer's Brazil World Cup.

However, they are unlikely to be necessary in Qatar because of planned stadium air-cooling which organisers claim will lower temperatures within grounds to about 23°C.

World Cup 2022: Pundits debate Qatar 2022 alternative dates

The development of carbon neutral stadium-cooling technology was a key legacy pledge for Qatar 2022 and it is thought likely that the bid committee is open to a May schedule.

Fifa's 'calendar taskforce' - which is considering the issue - met last month in Zurich. The next meeting is due to take place in early November with representatives from global broadcasters expected to attend.

The taskforce, which is led by Fifa vice-president Shaikh Salman, is due to announce the conclusion of its discussions and a timetable in March 2015.

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