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Sep 12, 2013

FIFA stresses player safety for 2022

ZURICH -- Players are the most important factor in a deepening debate on switching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from summer to winter, FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb said Thursday.

"If something is not good for the players then it's not good for the game," Webb said at FIFA headquarters.

Webb, also president of the regional body representing North and Central America and the Caribbean, said that FIFA's 27-member executive committee will receive detailed proposals at its Oct. 3-4 meeting.

"It's obvious that there is a lot of concern," Webb said. "I know a number of analyses has been done, some research has been done, some surveys have been done. So we will sit down and listen to the experts."

FIFA president Sepp Blatter told The Associated Press last month that the board should agree in principle not to play the World Cup in June-July, and request widespread consultation on a better time to play in Qatar. Blatter has favored a November-December slot.

One of Webb's colleagues on the board, medical committee chairman Michel D'Hooghe, is likely to present a case for switching tournament dates to protect players' health.

The Belgian doctor has worked for several years on a report documenting risks in playing soccer in extreme conditions, including heat, cold and altitude.

Much of the winter World Cup debate has centered on forcing wealthy European clubs and leagues, plus the Champions League, to alter their traditional schedules.

Webb, from the Cayman Islands, acknowledged that some of his CONCACAF leagues would be required to change. Major League Soccer, which runs from March to November, is one of the least affected.

"No one likes change, but really if there needs to be an adjustment because of the World Cup, whatever is in the best interests of the game, is also going to be in the best interests of CONCACAF," he said.

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