The prospect of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar being played in the winter has moved a step closer after the Premier League chairman, Sir Dave Richards, said "common sense" suggested it would have to be moved from the summer. Despite the backing of the Uefa president, Michel Platini, for such a move, the European leagues remain opposed.
"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, speaking at the Securing Sport conference in Doha where he last year created headlines by stumbling into a water feature.
"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."
Not for the first time, the Premier League was forced to release a statement contradicting the position of its own 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," said a spokesman.
Fifa had been saying it was up to the Qatar organising committee to ask for a change in the timing, while Qatar 2022 said they were planning for the summer until told otherwise by Fifa. But last week Michel D'Hooghe, the chairman of Fifa's medical committee, backed the move and the general secretary, Jérôme Valcke, said it could be moved unilaterally if research showed holding the tournament in the summer heat would be dangerous for players.
Jim Boyce, the British representative on Fifa's executive committee, has weighed into the debate for the first time. "I was not part of the process that gave the World Cup to Qatar, but my feeling is that common sense should prevail. The World Cup is the greatest event in football and from a spectator point of view it has to be played at a time of year when people can enjoy it in comfort," he said.
"People I know who live in Qatar say it would be very uncomfortable for the fans. There is also a medical and health concern for both players and spectators and if it is going to be safer to play it in January instead of July then I would be in favour of that."
Moving the tournament would meet with fierce resistance from the European leagues who fear the impact on their broadcasting and commercial deals and clubs who would be reluctant to release players. Those who lost out to Qatar, including the United States and Australia, could also look a challenging the move in the courts.