March 19 - Sir Dave Richards, chairman of the Premier League, has openly backed a winter FIFA World Cup in Qatar in 2022 saying that it cannot be played in the summer due to the heat.
Speaking here today after signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) – for which he is President – and the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) Sir Dave said it would have to be a winter tournament despite the problems it would cause for European clubs.
"At the moment it has a tremendous amount of implications for Europe with fixture," he said.
"Our fixture congestion is incredibly difficult."
Asked whether he agreed with a winter World Cup he replied, "For us at this minute the answer is 'no'.
"But, if we take a proper view, we have to find a way to have a winter spell where we don't play and I think common sense will prevail.
"We've got FIFA now saying that medical people are saying that they can't play in Qatar in the summer because of the heat, which is probably right.
"I think over the next few years, things will change and they will come to a compromise.
"I think they'll play at the time of year that's proper for football [in Qatar], it can't be summer.
"It will be a winter World Cup."
His comments today follow those he made at a similar International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) conference last year in Qatar, where he was also critical of the heat saying it would have too much impact on fans and they could "roast".
And while it seems he could be making a U-turn, having previously opposed a winter World Cup, the Premier League responded to its chairman's comments insisting that it was still against the tournament taking place in the winter as it would cause significant disruptions to the match calendar.
"The Premier League's view remains unchanged," a statement read.
"We are opposed to the concept of a winter World Cup for very obvious practical reasons that would impact on all of European domestic football."
Britain's FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce also added his voice to the debate today, backing a winter World Cup.
"I was not part of the process that gave the World Cup to Qatar, but my feeling is that common sense should prevail," he said.
"The World Cup is the greatest event in football and from a spectator point of view it has to be played at a time of year when people can enjoy it in comfort.
"People I know who live in Qatar say it would be very uncomfortable for the fans.
"There is a medical and health concern for both players and spectators and if it is going to be safer to play it in January instead of July then I would be in favour of that.
"Many other countries already have a winter break so for them it should not be too problematic.
"England is probably the main country where there is no winter break but I believe that even there if they are given enough notice then for just one season it should be possible."
Qatar 2022 have said any decision on whether to switch the World Cup from summer to winter must be taken within the next two years to make it logistically possible.
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