FIFA’s executive committee will decide the definitive winter dates for the 2022 World Cup finals at a meeting starting Thursday knowing that their ruling will only ignite new battles over the controversial tournament in Qatar.
European clubs are demanding compensation over the change from a summer tournament to November-December, a bitter row over corruption allegations surrounding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids has not been laid to rest and the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar remains a worry for FIFA chiefs.
The executive committee’s two day meeting in Zurich will decide the firm dates of the tournament as well as whether South Korea or France will host the women’s World Cup in 2019.
Moving the world’s most watched sporting event to the northern hemisphere winter has opened new divisions within the football leadership.
The tournament is expected to be shortened to reduce the fallout for Europe’s league championships.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said the tournament will not run till after December 18 in a bid to reassure the English Premier League, which feared a clash with their packed Christmas programme.
But top European clubs want hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for the disruption to their cash rich championships which contributed three quarters of the players who appeared at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
– FIFA’s billions targeted –
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman of Bayern Munich and head of the European Club Association, said championships around the globe will be disrupted by the winter World Cup revolution which will force a break in championships.
While the former West German international striker admitted that everyone would have to compromise, he added: “The European clubs and leagues cannot be expected to bear the costs for such rescheduling. We expect the clubs to be compensated for the damage that a final decision would cause.”
Blatter, who will seek a fifth term as FIFA president in May, said compensation is not justified.
On the other hand FIFA paid out $70 million to about 400, mainly European, clubs after the 2014 World Cup and this could be substantially increased for 2022.
UEFA is already promising 150 million euros ($170 million) for clubs whose players are on duty at the 2016 European championships in France.
But the European clubs, who will meet at the end of March, are determined.
“We have got compensation from UEFA for its competitions. If we don’t get the same thing from FIFA you can expect an extremely virulent reaction from the ECA,” said Jean-Michel Aulas, president of French league leaders Lyon.
Other federations around the world could follow the European example and demand cash. FIFA has substantial reserves, revenues of $4.5 billion are expected to be announced for the last four years, but the bill for 2022 could rise.
The meeting is also likely to have an extra layer of tension because of the presidential election which is to take place in Zurich at a FIFA congress on May 29.
This meeting will be the first chaired by Blatter since FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin Al Hussein announced he would stand against the Swiss veteran.
Portuguese football legend Figo and Dutch footballchief Michael van Praag are also standing.
Blatter, 79, remains the favourite but his rivals are furiously lobbying for support. – Agence France-Presse