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Aug 24, 2013

Blatter: Qatar WC set to move

ULRICHEN, Switzerland -- FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said he expects his executive committee to decide on whether to shift the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to another time of year to avoid the searing summer heat.

On Sunday, Blatter told the Associated Press that a meeting in Zurich on October 3 and 4 should approve the change and begin consultation on the best time for Qatar to host the tournament.

"I would be very much surprised, more than surprised, if the ExCo will not accept the principle you cannot play in summer in Qatar," he said in an interview. "What will be following, this would be then be decided later."

Blatter said consultations would involve leagues, clubs, national associations and players -- through their international FIFPro union -- but set no timetable.

Qatar's suitability in June and July, when temperatures rise above 104 degrees, was questioned even before FIFA's board awarded it the tournament in December 2010. Qatar defeated bids from the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

However, the 2022 World Cup organising committee has said it is confident that it can develop stadium air-cooling technology, intended to reduce pitch-level temperatures to 81 degrees. Qatari officials also repeatedly said they will change plans if FIFA requested it.

Blatter and football's governing body have gradually shifted their position from insisting that Qatar must ask for a change -- a scenario interpreted as protecting FIFA against potential legal challenges.

In March, FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke told reporters that the governing body would not have prompted discussion about change without being sure of its legal position.

Now some of the same FIFA board members who helped choose Qatar -- in a decisive 14-8 vote over the US -- are set to switch the tournament calendar.

"Those that have taken the decision at the time, they knew there is problems with the heat. They knew it, because it was in the [technical] report," Blatter said. "It was wrong to say: 'Now we have to play in summer,' because in summer you cannot play there."

"Therefore the ExCo now shall take the decision -- and they will take it -- that in summer you can't play in Qatar."

Blatter has previously suggested November as a possible start for the month-long tournament, while recent speculation has focused on May. A January-February slot is unlikely because of a clash with the 2022 Winter Olympics.

"What will be the ongoing situation with such a decision, we have to look on the international calendar," Blatter said. "We have to look if and how it is possible, when we don't play in summer, when is the best time to play in winter?"

The calendar is currently set through to 2018, and the next round of discussions will look to the 2019-2022 cycle of seasons.

Wealthy European clubs and leagues, including the Premier League and Bundesliga, are likely to be the biggest critics of any threat to schedule the 2022 World Cup during their traditional August-May season.

Blatter met Michel Platini, the UEFA president, on Sunday. He will discuss FIFA business with his 54 member federations during mid-September meetings in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

"He asked me to give him some items to be discussed there," Blatter said of the "long" discussions with Platini, his one-time protege and potential rival for the FIFA presidency in 2015. Platini has confirmed that he voted for Qatar, but supports a switch from summer.

US Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati helped lead the American bid in 2010 and will now contribute to key decisions on Qatar's hosting as a member of the FIFA executive committee since May.

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