FIFA president Sepp Blatter has given the first indication that the Qatar 2022 World Cup could be moved from a summer tournament to a winter one.
Blatter said a switch would only happen if the Qataris request it but added a move may prompt countries that lost out to the Gulf state to challenge the decision.
“For there to be a change to winter it is necessary that Qatar ask for it. They have not done so yet,” said Blatter.
“And they know if they do they risk another of the 2022 candidates bringing a challenge before FIFA and the vote would have to be repeated,” he added.
Blatter’s comments add to the growing concern that Qatar will be unable to combat the soaring summer temperatures during a summer tournament. The Gulf state is spending billions of dollars creating air conditioned stadiums but commentators are concerned it may not be enough.
Premier League chairman Sir David Richards, UEFA president Michel Platini and German football legend Franz Beckenbauer have all proposed the tournament is switched to winter.
Speaking at the Securing Sport conference in Doha, Richards, said earlier in the week that while there are currently no plans to switch to the tournament to a winter event, he hoped there would be some compromise in the future.
“At the moment it has a tremendous amount of implications for Europe. For us, at this minute, the answer is ‘no’. But, if we take a proper view, we have to find a way to have a winter spell where we don’t play and I think common sense will prevail," said Richards.
“We’ve got FIFA now saying that medical people are saying that they can't play in Qatar in the summer because of the heat, which is probably right. Over the next few years, things will change and they will come to a compromise,” he said.
Not for the first time, the Premier League was forced to release a statement opposing its chairman. “The Premier League’s view remains unchanged. We are opposed to the concept of a winter World Cup for very obvious practical reasons that would impact on all of European domestic football,” a spokesperson said.
Moving the tournament would meet with fierce resistance from European leagues who fear the impact on their broadcasting and commercial deals and clubs would be reluctant to release players.
Countries that lost out to Qatar, including the US and Australia, could also look to challenge the move in the courts.