By CAITLIN MURRAY
A World Cup played in a different time of year than the summer is apparently on the cusp of becoming reality.
According to a report from Sports Illustrated, the decision to move the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to winter is all but approved. Citing unnamed sources, the report indicates the World Cup will be held in November and December to mitigate Qatar’s sweltering heat, moving from the usual June and July schedule.
A FIFA task force will reportedly convene in Doha next week to recommend the winter schedule and FIFA’s Executive Committee is expected to approve the proposal in Zurich next month.
Moving the World Cup had long been discussed as a solution for the hot climate of Qatar, which can reach unsafe levels in the summer, but the idea also raised concerns about how club schedules would be impacted. According to Wednesday’s report, the new plan will affect one European club season by cutting some of FIFA’s international dates.
Last month, one of FIFA’s members tasked with investigating the schedule said a winter World Cup could affect as many as 50 league around the world.
SI’s report comes on the heels of a surprising move by FIFA to extend FOX’s broadcast rights for an additional World Cup cycle without a new round of bidding.
FOX had bid a reported $425 million for broadcast rights starting with the 2015 Women’s World Cup through to the men’s World Cup in 2022. But last week, FIFA abruptly announced the deal had been extended to 2026, causing many in the media to speculate the extension was consolation for unannounced plans to push the event to winter, which is a crowded sports season in North America.
ESPN, which held the rights through last summer’s World Cup in Brazil, spoke out against the extension, confirming FIFA awarded FOX the additional cycle of rights without bids.
“We were not invited to be involved in this process,” ESPN said in a statement. “Considering the high quality presentation that ESPN demonstrated and the exposure we brought to FIFA events through all our platforms, it was surprising and disappointing to learn of this when the press release was issued.”
What do you think of this news? Think a winter World Cup would work? Surprised FIFA is going to approve it?
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