UEFA agree on principle over winter World Cup
FIFA is poised to delay a decision on whether to move the 2022 Qatar World Cup to winter while a task force evaluates the controversial proposal, according to a report.
FIFA's executive meeting, which began in Zurich on Thursday, was expected be the forum for an announcement of the season change for the competition due to hot summer temperatures in Qatar.
But London's Evening Standard newspaper quoted a highly placed FIFA source as saying on Thursday: "It was always media hype to expect the executive to come to such a decision this week without looking at all the consequences. The World Cup is nine years away and there is no need to rush to make a decision.
"Indeed, the agenda for the meeting merely says we should 'discuss' the Qatar World Cup not whether we should move it. Indeed, it is at the moment such low priority that it is item 25 in a 27-point agenda. So it is not even likely to be discussed today."
FIFA spokesman Walter De Gregorio has insisted there is "no doubt" the 2022 World Cup will be played in Qatar as the world governing body meets to discuss growing concerns over the tournament.
"No doubt," he told reporters when asked if it would be played in Qatar. "What is open to question is if we play in winter, and if so is it November, December, January, I don't know...
"But there is no doubt we will play in Qatar."
FIFA opened a two-day board meeting on Thursday that will discuss whether to move the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from the traditional summer dates.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been pushing for a switch but will likely meet opposition from Europe and the United States. They want FIFA to consult widely before agreeing to a change from the usual June-July slot that is designed to avoid the extreme heat in the tiny desert state.
Officials from Asian and African confederations also said on Thursday they have not yet talked formally about Blatter's proposed switch.
"We haven't had that discussion in [Africa]," FIFA board member Hany Abo Rida of Egypt told The Associated Press. "We're waiting to hear the explanation from the FIFA executive."
Blatter has raised the possibility of starting the tournament in November, while UEFA president Michel Platini prefers January.
Blatter said in August he would be "very much surprised, more than surprised" if this board meeting did not reject the idea of playing the World Cup in the Qatari summer.
FIFA has said the 27-member executive committee will also consider the human rights of migrant workers involved in building stadiums, transport links and hotels in Qatar for the World Cup.
The Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation is trying to step up pressure on FIFA, reminding Blatter that his organisation failed in a November 2011 pledge to press Qatari authorities to improve working conditions and legal protection for up to 1.2 million foreign workers in the emirate.
The Asian Football Confederation is also waiting to start formal talks on its position regarding the 2022 World Cup, general secretary Alex Soosay said on Thursday.
European soccer leaders have been consulted and given cautious support for a switch to winter, preferring January-February.
At a UEFA meeting in Croatia last month, the 54 member countries handed Platini a mandate to support a move to winter, though many see major problems if FIFA ultimately decides on Blatter's suggestion of a November-December tournament.
Stronger opposition comes from Europe's influential leagues, clubs and players' unions. They have urged FIFA to take more time and insist on being consulted. England's Premier League has predicted chaos in trying to reorganise its schedules around a winter World Cup.
FIFA and Blatter have made a U-turn after spending two years insisting change was possible only if Qatar organisers themselves asked to move the dates.
On Wednesday, the Qatari organising committee -- which is not represented on the FIFA board -- repeated its desire to host the tournament in the summer, though it is willing to meet FIFA's wishes.
"If the international football community reaches a consensus to move the event to an alternate date, we are able to accommodate that change," the Qatar 2022 committee said in a statement.
The head of Qatar's 2022 World Cup organizing committee says he's "comfortable and confident" the tournament won't be taken from his country.
Hassan al-Thawadi said he had "no expectations" about a FIFA decision, and Qatar is comfortable with any timetable for FIFA to choose the best months to play.
Al-Thawadi dismissed speculation about how Qatar won the contest -- defeating the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea -- as conspiracy theories.
"I think what we're going to see is a picture of the grassy knoll in the JFK assassination and instead of it being smoke they're going to say it's the Qatari headdress and it's us," al-Thawadi said. "It proves the need for the Middle East to host a World Cup. It proves the need for us to actually be able to break down stereotypes."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.