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FIFA Panel Recommends 2022 World Cup Be Played In Winter

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Coming in 2022, a winter World Cup. Normally that event is in the summer, but host country Qatar is unbearably hot then. Faced with a real concern that heat could hurt the athletes, soccer's international governing body, FIFA, has recommended the move. NPR's Tom Goldman reports the winter plan is prompting new criticism about the Qatar World Cup, a venue that's never been widely accepted.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Moving the June-July tournament to November-December was, according to FIFA, the only remaining effective option, with competing world events in 2022, the Winter Olympics in February, Ramadan in April and withering heat from May to September. FIFA's executive committee is expected to approve the plan next month. Qatar 2022 chief organizer Hassan Al-Thawadi spoke on Britain's Channel 4.

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HASSAN AL-THAWADI: Whatever the executive committee decides, we are committed to. And we will deliver an amazing World Cup.

GOLDMAN: Not for the world's top domestic soccer leagues. They're angry about interrupting their seasons when the top players leave for World Cup duty. Richard Scudamore is chief executive of the English Premiere League.

RICHARD SCUDAMORE: You know, for the integrity of football league, to have to stop for six or seven weeks is less than ideal.

GOLDMAN: And costly to soccer clubs that'll lose the money due to rescheduling to TV networks like Fox Sports, which will broadcast the 2022 event in this country. A Winter World Cup will compete for attention with the NFL and college football. As a result, World Cup advertisers may not pay Fox as much. Former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson notes, FIFA recently extended Fox's World Cup contract to the 2026 event without making Fox bid with other networks.

NEAL PILSON: In return for basically accepting or anticipating less revenue from the 2022 games.

GOLDMAN: Games already marred by allegations of corruption, by stories of horrendous conditions for migrant workers building the World Cup infrastructure. And now, a chorus of more boos, more than four years after FIFA awarded Qatar the World Cup and ignored its own warning that a summer event posed a potential health risk to all involved. Tom Goldman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.