The 2022 football World Cup will not be held in Qatar in the summer months because of the heat, and is likely to take place between November and January, Fifa’s secretary general says.
Jerome Valcke said the competition would not be held in June or July as usual, but Fifa said his comments in a radio interview were his own and a final decision had not been made about timing.
Mr Valcke told France Info: “Frankly I think it’ll be played between 15 November and 15 January at the latest. If you play between 15 November and the end of the year, that’s when the weather is at its most favourable.”
Mr Valcke said it would be “like a warm spring in Europe” with “an average temperature of 25 degrees, therefore it’s perfect for football”.
It is expected that Fifa, world football’s governing body, will move the World Cup because of Qatar’s intense heat, which can exceed 40 degrees Celsius in the summer months.
But changing the timing of the competition has major implications for football leagues throughout the world, which will have to alter the dates of their traditional seasons.
In October, Fifa delayed making a decision on whether to play the tournament in the winter, saying it was setting up a consultation process on when the finals should be held. At the time, it said it would reach a conclusion after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Fifa said in a statement on Wednesday that Mr Valcke had simply stated his opinion and “the precise event date is still subject to an ongoing consultation process”.
It added: “As the event will not be played until eight years’ time the consultation process will not be rushed and will be given the necessary time to consider all of the elements relevant for a decision.
“Consequently, no decision will be taken before the upcoming 2014 Fifa World Cup Brazil as agreed by the Fifa executive committee.”
Britain’s Fifa Vice President Jim Boyce said he was “totally surprised” by Mr Valcke’s comments because a final decision had not been made by the organisation’s excecutive committee.
But he added that there had been a general assumption that the 2022 World Cup could not be played in the summer due to the heat.
The ability of players to cope with the climate has been debated since Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010.
In August, FA Chairman Greg Dyke said holding the finals in the summer would be dangerous for supporters.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “It’s too hot. “Forget about footballers, think about the fans. If you get thousands of fans, as you do at world cups, out in that heat, I just don’t see how it works.
“You can have air-conditioned stadiums, but you’ve got to get in and out of the stadium, and that can take you an hour. In that sort of heat it’s quite dangerous I think.”
Mr Dyke said he believed the competition would be moved to later in the year, but Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore has said holding the finals in winter would be “wrong”.