Andrew Warshaw: Qatar 2022 – A third option

It is only an idea at this stage but one which perhaps might work and should be considered.

For the last few months, seemingly everyone involved in football politics has had their say over whether the 2022 Qatar World Cup should be staged in summer or winter.

The latest voice to be heard on the issue is that of Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the FIFA-appointed expert whose inspection team went round the world in the build-up to the December 2010, ballot evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the various candidates.

Mayne-Nicholls, like so many others, can see advantages and disadvantages for both winter and summer and said as much in a wide-ranging interview with Insideworldfootball. Let’s face it, neither time is ideal for reasons that have been well chronicled.

The entire debate may be in danger of overkill but now, ever so gently, there is a third option being loosely floated amongst those in the know. Why not stage the tournament in May and June instead of June and July? In other words, one month earlier.

On paper, it looks like a sensible and logical suggestion. From what I have been told, bringing the World Cup forward by just one month could make all the difference in terms of both the heat and humidity in the Gulf. Crucially, of course, it would not cause the kind of disruption the anti-winter brigade are so worried about. League seasons would have to finish slightly earlier, for sure, but a May start doesn’t seem that great a burden on the leagues compared to a six-month change, while it would be far cooler for players and fans than visiting Qatar at the height of summer.

So far, the idea is simply that and has come to my attention purely informally. No flesh has been put on any bones and as far as I know, it has not been discussed officially though who knows what kind of private talks have taken place between FIFA President Sepp Blatter, members of his inner sanctum and the Qatari organisers.

But it would – or at least could – avoid a whole host of potential problems, including legal action by the vanquished 2022 bidders, three seasons of calendar chaos and the knock-on effect a winter tournament would have on lower leagues if they were prevented from playing during the World Cup, as is traditionally the case.

In short, timing adjustment would be minimal.

A May-June World Cup may have come out of left field but it seems like a win-win situation, at least in comparison to the two other options. These days, the FIFA executive committee looks very different to how it did at the time of the original ballot two and half years ago. It has been freshened up and now comprises free-thinking, responsible members who, one would like to think, will do what is right for the game rather than themselves.

Blatter is due to lobby them for support for a Winter 2022 when he meets them in October, having taken the view that winter is, on balance, a safer option than summer. But as we know, by no means everyone agrees with him and safer still might be May and June.

Okay that might still mean finishing the season in April for some countries – depending exactly when in May the World Cup would start – but the so-called Big Five in Europe will surely find it far more palatable than an unprecedented one-off major switch.

The suggestion (brainwave may be too strong) may get booted into touch before it even sees the light of day. But the Qatar organisers, who have made it clear they could stage the tournament any time, would surely embrace it and there are those on the fringes of those in high places who believe it has merit – and should at least be given a chance to be properly thought through before being ditched.

Andrew Warshaw is chief correspondent of Insideworldfootball.