TWO options have emerged as the most likely dates for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar - and both are in the winter.
A meeting of a FIFA task force to look into the international calendar has identified January/February 2022 or November/December 2022 as the most likely options which would mean considerable disruption to the normal football season.
FIFA has been asked to consider May 2022 by the clubs despite concerns over the heat during that month.
But if the winter dates are confirmed, at a future meeting, it would mean major disruption for Premier League and Football League clubs including Newcastle United and Sunderland.
Speaking today, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said: “We are getting closer to narrowing the dates for the FIFA World Cup to two options - January/February 2022 or November/December 2022 - but FIFA has also been asked to consider May 2022.
“We will summarise what we’ve heard today and provide feedback to all parties in order for them to prepare for the next meeting as we progress towards a final decision.”
FIFA added that Qatar 2022 chief executive Hassan Al Thawadi had stated that the “ideal situation” for the Middle East “for an all-inclusive World Cup would be for it to be held in the winter” although it was still open to the traditional June/July dates.
UEFA has argued strongly to hold the tournament in January/February 2022 - those dates would minimise disruption to the Champions League - but that would also raise the prospect of a clash with the winter Olympics, something FIFA president Sepp Blatter has guaranteed will be avoided.
The November/December option still looks the most likely outcome but FIFA confirmed the European Clubs Association put forward a proposal to hold the World Cup in April/May 2022 while the European Professional Football Leagues - including Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore - suggested May/June 2022 as an alternative.
The FIFA statement added: “Representatives were given the platform to provide detailed reports on how these proposed dates might impact their relevant competitions, activities and/or stakeholders.
“Additionally, presentations suggesting April/May 2022 and May/June 2022 as alternative periods for the FIFA World Cup were given by the ECA and the EPFL respectively.”
The clubs’ and leagues’ proposals may well founder on the fact that the build-up would clash with the month-long period of Ramadan.
The FIFA statement said: “Valcke also highlighted the fact that the month-long period of Ramadan would begin on 2 April in 2022, which would have an impact on a number of players in their preparations for any April/May option and with regard to the preparation of the event itself.”