FIFA president Sepp Blatter holds up the name of Qatar during the official announcement of the 2022 World Cup host country in Zurich in December 2010 (AFP /Philippe Desmazes)
A FIFA World Cup task force on Tuesday called for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to be shortened and held in November-December to avoid scorching summer temperatures.
A tournament from the end of November to the end of December was "the most viable period" for the World Cup, the task force decided, according to a FIFA statement.
But a final decision will only be made by the FIFA executive in March and Europe\’s top clubs have already stressed their opposition to the change from a traditional summer tournament.
"There is one solution, November-December," said FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke after a meeting of the task force in Doha.
FIFA said the task force also recommended a shorter competition. But it did not say by how much the tournament would be shrunk.
Officials said there was no proposal to reduce the number of countries taking part from 32.
"The outcome of the discussions is also a proposed reduced competition days schedule with the exact dates to be defined inline with the match schedule and number of venues to be used," said the FIFA statement.
"The proposed event dates have the full support of all six confederations," it added.
But Europe\’s top leagues and clubs, who fear a costly disruption to their flagship Champions League event as well as their domestic championships, expressed immediate opposition.
English Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, who was a member of the task force, expressed the anger of European leagues and players.
"Yeah, very disappointed that\’s the word, I think, on behalf of the all the European leagues and particularly the European clubs who provide most of the players for this World Cup," said Scudamore.
He added he felt "let down" by European football\’s governing body, UEFA, which has already accepted a switch to winter.
The FIFA executive meets in Zurich on March 19-20 to decide the final dates, and fierce lobbying is still expected before then.
Britain\’s FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce said he would oppose holding the final as late as December 23, which is reportedly one of the options.
Boyce said moving the World Cup to the winter was "common sense" but that a final on December 23 would be too close to the end-of-year holidays.
FIFA has ruled out holding the tournament in January-February because of a clash with the Winter Olympics, which would put football\’s governing body on a collision course with the International Olympic Committee.
But it also said a European club proposal for a tournament in May-June was unworkable because of the heat.
European clubs and championships could seek compensation for their losses from an enforced break in their competitions. The English Premier League recently sold television rights for 2016 to 2019 for a record $7.8 billion dollars (6.9 billion euros).
Traditionally the World Cup is played in June and July, but summer temperatures in Qatar soar above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
In November-December, the temperatures would be around 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit).
Officials from football\’s global governing body, top leagues and players\’ representatives attended the crucial meeting in Doha.
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