AN announcement from FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar would not be played in the summer created yet more controversy around the finals yesterday.
His assertion led to a shocked response from FIFA vice president Jim Boyce, who said that only the governing body's executive committee could decide when the World Cup would be played.
In a later statement, FIFA backtracked on Valcke's comments which came in an interview with the radio station France Inter.
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"The dates of the World Cup will not be in June or July. I think it will be played between November 15 and January 15 at the latest," Valcke said. "If you play between November 15 and, let's say, the end of December, it's the time when the weather is the most favourable.
"You play with a temperature equivalent to that of a rather hot spring in Europe, you play with a temperature of 25°[Celsius], which is perfect to play football."
The average temperature in the summer months in Qatar can be around 35°C (95°Fahrenheit) and 45°C (113°F).
In a subsequent statement FIFA dismissed the claims, saying Valcke had only been giving "his view" that the 2022 World Cup should take place in winter between November and January.
The FIFA statement added: "The precise event date is still subject to an ongoing consultation process which involves all main event stakeholders, including both the international football community [FIFA, confederations, member associations, leagues, clubs, players] as well as FIFA's commercial partners [Commercial Affiliates and Media Rights Licensees].
"As the event will not be played until eight years' time the consultation process will not be rushed and will be given the necessary time to consider all of the elements relevant for a decision. Consequently, no decision will be taken before the upcoming World Cup Brazil as agreed by the FIFA Executive Committee."
But Boyce later admitted he had been surprised by Valcke's comments. "I am totally shocked to be honest," he said. "The situation, as far as I'm aware, is that the FIFA executive committee was awaiting a report set up by all the stakeholders involved in the World Cup - television companies, leagues, sponsors - meeting between now and the World Cup in Brazil. The plan was that there would be no further discussion on the World Cup in Qatar until December at the end of this year.
"Whether Jerome was making a personal opinion or not I just don't know, but I can confirm this has not been discussed by the FIFA executive committee. I am very surprised about what has happened this morning.
"One hundred per cent I can confirm that the FIFA executive committee has not decided to move the World Cup. The decision would not be taken until the end of 2014, or at the March 2015 meeting of the executive committee."
After hearing Valcke's pronouncement, Philippe Piat, the president of FIFPro, the international players union, said: "It is excellent news, we have been asking for it for months."
Asked if he was surprised by the timing of the announcement, he said: "Yes and no because the decision was supposed to be made last October but was postponed because the clubs and the leagues had asked for a delay."
FIFA delayed its decision in October saying it was setting up a consultation process to decide when to stage the finals. Sepp Blatter, the president, has always said it would reach a conclusion sometime after this year's World Cup in Brazil.
"The stakeholders include the players, the clubs, the leagues, the national federations, the confederations and FIFA, but it doesn't only include sports," Blatter said.
"There are other partners, economic ones, be they from marketing, the media or television. We need to bear in mind our obligations towards these partners, so we need to carry out very deep consultation."