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Jul 7, 2011

Football: A game of three halves?

FIFA has moved to head off rumours of a proposal that games at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be split into three periods of 30 minutes.

• Qatar's attack on bid corruption claims
• Clouds could keep World Cup cool

The aim of this change in the structure of matches would be to guard against the heat of an Arabian summer, to which lengthy exposure could be seriously damaging to a player's health.

Michael Beavon, a director of Arup Associates, the company developing the zero-carbon solar technology that can cool the 12 stadiums to be built for the World Cup, told delegates at a Qatar Infrastructure Conference in London that air-cooling could maintain a temperature of around 24 degrees Celsius in the stadiums.

"There is a moderate risk of heat injury to the players between 24C-29C but if you go above that you have high and extreme risk of injury," said Beavon. "The one thing FIFA do say, although it is for guidance, is if it's 32C they will stop a match and play three 30-minute thirds rather than two 45-minute halves.

"The reason would be to re-hydrate the players before they could carry on playing. That of course would play havoc with TV schedules and those kind of things. The commitment from Qatar was to provide conditions in the moderate band, so that matches would go ahead and be played as normal. Matches have to be played at an acceptable temperature and in safety so that FIFA do not intervene."

But a FIFA spokesmen denied that such a change was likely. "This possibility has not been discussed," the spokesman said. "In any case, this would require a change in the Laws of the Game, and therefore would have to be analysed and approved by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in the first place."

The governing body has already been forced to deny that the 2022 tournament will be moved to a winter juncture to offset the problems of playing in high summer. That idea, which would disrupt domestic and continental club football either side of that time, has been met with a deluge of criticism.

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