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European football powerbrokers hit out at Qatar 2022 decision

The European Club Association (ECA) and European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) have hit out at Fifa’s decision to recommend a November-December slot for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup, with the former body calling for compensation for its clubs and the latter maintaining the move will cause “great damage” to the domestic game.

World football’s governing body today (Tuesday) confirmed a November-December window will be recommended as the “most viable period” for Qatar to host the World Cup, with a shorter tournament on the cards. Fifa said a 2022 World Cup running from late November to late December has the “full support” of its six member confederations, adding the proposal will be discussed at the next meeting of its Executive Committee, scheduled to take place in Zurich on March 19-20.

While Fifa said the exact dates of Qatar 2022 are to be defined in-line with the match schedule and number of venues to be used for the 22nd edition of football’s flagship event, the EPFL said dates of November 19 to December 23 have been pinpointed. In December, the ECA and EPFL joined forces to put forward a staging period of May 5 to June 4 for Qatar’s World Cup, arguing that the model would avoid a “brutal split” of domestic football caused by a winter tournament.

The ECA and EPFL outlined that May 5 to June 4 would avoid what would be a hugely controversial clash with the 2022 winter Olympics. The two bodies said their proposal was “far less intrusive” than winter models since it retained the “logical” calendar order and avoided compressing the World Cup in the middle of the traditional and busy club football season. The ECA and EPFL also said the May 2022 option provided “acceptable climatic conditions” with regard to both players and fans.

In a statement today, the EPFL said: “The Association of European Professional Football Leagues and the clubs have expressed their disagreement with respect to this proposal which will perturb and cause great damage to the normal running of the European domestic competitions.

“Leagues and clubs have reiterated, once again, their joint solution for holding the World Cup during the month of May. This proposal has been structured on a fact-based study which is totally acceptable from the meteorological point of view by providing reasonable climatic conditions with regard to both players and fans.”

The EPFL stressed that it has received assurances from Fifa Task Force chairman, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, that its May-June proposal will remain on the table for March’s Fifa Executive Committee meeting. Commenting on the decision, ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said: “For the soccer family, the rescheduling of the Fifa World Cup 2022 presents a difficult and challenging task.

“All match calendars across the world will have to accommodate such a tournament in 2022/23, which requires everyone’s willingness to compromise. European clubs and leagues cannot be expected to bear the costs for such rescheduling. We expect the clubs to be compensated for the damage that a final decision would cause.”

English Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said there was little in the way of discussion during today’s meeting, adding the league is “extremely disappointed” with the recommendation. “It is clear that the views of the European leagues, along with the numerous other competitions globally that will be negatively affected, have not been given serious consideration throughout this process,” Scudamore said.

“The prevailing view from the leagues has been that displacing the 2022 World Cup significantly from the original summer dates disproportionately impacts the sporting integrity of our competitions. Our particular concern is that a Fifa World Cup that finishes late in December could result in damaging one of the English game’s great traditions and attractions, with the removal of the entire Premier League, Football League and FA Cup Christmas and New Year fixture programme that season.”

Meanwhile, the German Football League (DFL) stated its concern over player workload. “Staging the World Cup in November/December is an organisational as well as a financial burden for European leagues,” DFL managing director Andreas Rettig said. “One also has to take into account the strain on top players. A shortened match plan cannot mean that there will be the same number of games to be played in a shorter period of time.”

World players’ union FIFPro, which was represented on the Fifa Task Force, echoed concern over workload, while welcoming the move from the summer months of June and July. General secretary Theo van Seggelen maintained that wider concerns have yet to be addressed. He added: “Removing players from the danger zone of playing in a Qatari summer is only the first, very important step.

“FIFPro has tabled its concerns as the conditions in Qatar go way beyond heat. It’s a human rights matter more than anything else. Kafala does not protect the rights of the players in Qatar. Similarly, the players should have the right to unionise, access to fair contractual standards, and dispute resolution mechanisms that align with the international football community.”