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Nov 4, 2013

Winter sports see November threat

The most senior Olympic winter sports official sees a threat in FIFA choosing November for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar -- even if the proposed date avoids a clash with the Winter Games.

Rene Fasel, who heads the Association of International Olympic Winter Sports Federations (AIOWF), told The Associated Press on Monday that scheduling football's marquee tournament in November would clash with events for all seven of his members.

"November is the start of the season for maybe, I would say, all the other federations," said Fasel, an IOC executive board member and president of ice hockey's governing body. "For sure, we have to put up the flag and say, 'Hey guys, be careful.'"

Senior officials from the seven Winter Olympics federations -- representing biathlon, bobsled, curling, ice hockey, luge, skiing and skating -- are meeting this week, and will discuss the International Ski Federation's proposal for a united stand against FIFA moving the World Cup into the traditional winter sports season.

"We should really clearly show our position and protect our own interests," Fasel said in an interview.

FIFA is considering moving its tournament from the usual June-July period to avoid the scorching summer heat in Qatar.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has suggested November, while UEFA president Michel Platini prefers a January start. A January World Cup would conflict with the lead-in to the 2022 Winter Olympics in February.

"That's why we have to sit at the table and discuss: 'Sepp, what do we do? How do we go?'" Fasel said.

Fasel believes there is plenty of time for winter sports to contribute to FIFA's consultation, which is expected to run through 2015.

A spring option in April-May 2022 has been suggested by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, head of the European clubs' association.

"For the moment I keep cool," Fasel said. "We will see what really will be the decision in FIFA, how Qatar will react and which position there will be."

Skiing's governing body, which has long cautioned FIFA against moving into the traditional winter sports calendar, issued a statement Sunday opposing any such switch.

"FIS will submit a proposal to the other six international winter sports federations to sign a resolution against organizing the FIFA World Cup during the winter sports season in 2022," the Switzerland-based body said.

On Monday, winter sports officials gathered in Lausanne for a three-day gathering of all Olympic federations.

Bobsled federation president Ivo Ferriani said the FIS proposal had yet to be submitted to the AIOWF membership.

Fasel said informal discussions will be followed up at a next meeting at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February.

"I fully agree that we should have a discussion internally with the winter sports federations and have a common position," the Swiss official said.

Fasel said his own sport's national leagues would be affected by competing in November with football's World Cup, which draws the highest television ratings in international sports.

"We have the regular league games going on in the different countries so, for sure they will have less spectators because they will just watch the football," Fasel said. "Football is the No. 1 sport in the world -- this is like it is."

FIS said they want to team up with all six other Winter Sports Federation to prevent a winter World Cup in Qatar from happening, group president Gianfranco Kasper said.

Last week, Kasper slammed FIFA for the "god-like" attitude.

"I honestly and privately just don't believe that anybody within FIFA cares about us," he said. "They’re the gods of the world -- at least that's what they think. Now we are opposing it of course as much as we can."

The FIS president added that they could live with the World Cup to be staged in November or December, but "we of course would be 100-percent opposed if they try to do it in January," when the winter sports season is in full swing.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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