Michel Platini says the final decision on whether World Cup 2022 is played in summer or winter will be taken by Qatar’s authorities.
The decision to award the tournament to the Gulf Emirate has been controversial from the moment it was announced, with initial fears over the effects of searing summer temperatures for both players and supporters spreading to include issues such as workers’ rights, gay rights and the availability of alcohol for visiting fans.
The UEFA president told AS that he had voiced his own concerns even before the decision to award the tournament to Qatar was taken, but now the host country itself would have the final say on the details.
"I told those responsible for Qatar’s candidacy, at the time, that you cannot play football there in summer," Platini said. "And I also proposed that the World Cup was not just in Qatar, but shared among all the countries of the Gulf. To play in Qatar, but also in Abu-Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain, Oman... They listened to me but did not respond. It is a political decision which can only be taken by Qatar, which is the country which won the right to organise the 2022 World Cup. Both ideas were set out in principle, before and also after the voting. It is not something which has occurred to me just now."
Platini suggested he did not see many problems with playing the tournament during December and January.
"FIFA and UEFA are agreed in the essential point, which is that playing a World Cup in summer in Qatar is not the best," he said. "It is not that you cannot play competitive games, but that it is difficult to walk around under the sun, but it must be Qatar which takes the decision. In any case, FIFA has decided not to get into the subject until the Brazil World Cup passes. We are looking at it. In January it would not affect the Champions League, and in December just the Winter Olympics. We will see."
The former France international explained that his recent backing of a 40-country World Cup was motivated by a desire to protect the number of European countries who take part in the finals.
"The message is clear -- I will not accept a reduction in the number of European countries at the World Cup," Platini said. "At France 1998 there were 15 European countries, in Brazil there will be two less, 13. [I have said] loud and clear that you cannot touch Europe. And if you do touch Europe it is to increase the number of countries from our continent, not to reduce it to benefit other parts of the world. Instead of reducing the Europeans, we should go towards 40 countries at the World Cup. We could add two from Africa, two from Asia, two from America, one from Oceania and one more from Europe. You could have eight groups with five countries, the tournament would just have one extra week. I support this plan totally."
Asked if there was any chance the 2022 World Cup could be moved from Qatar to another country, Platini was emphatic.
"None," he said. "Maybe you could change the month, but not the country. The 2022 World Cup will be in Qatar, for sure."