Bin Hammam rules out World Cup date change

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LONDON: Asian football chief Mohamed Bin Hammam on Friday ruled out shifting the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to winter or staging tournament matches around the Gulf region.

Bin Hammam told Sky News in an interview that he was "unimpressed" by suggestions from FIFA President Sepp Blatter that the tournament could be moved to a winter time slot to avoid sweltering summer temperatures in Qatar.

He also took aim at remarks by UEFA President Michel Platini earlier this week that the 2022 tournament could be a "Gulf World Cup", with matches taking place in several countries surrounding Qatar.

Bin Hammam’s stinging rebuttal of recent comments from Blatter are certain to fuel speculation that the Qatari is planning to challenge the FIFA chief at elections later this year.

"I believe Qatar can stand alone and organize the competition by itself," Asian Football Confederation President Bin Hammam told Sky.

"And I’m really not very impressed by these opinions to distribute the game over the Gulf or change the time from July to January – it’s actually premature, you know, it’s people’s opinions and they’re just discussing it on no basis or no ground," the Qatari official added.

English football clubs have said switching the World Cup to January or February would be a logistical nightmare that would need at least a two-month mid-season break to the Premier League.

Bin Hammam appeared to sympathize with European leagues likely to be affected by a date change as he continued his criticism of Blatter’s remarks.

"It’s not up to one, two or three members of Fifa to talk about changing the time without getting the real stakeholders’ opinions," Bin Hammam added, without mentioning Blatter or Platini directly.

"I know that football in Europe has quite a history, it is quite a business involving a lot of financial, media, marketing – a lot of things," he said
"It is unfair to these people that we talk about changing the calendar or the time without their full consultation and their full approval and their full agreement – I’m actually not happy to see that happening without the real stakeholders’ part of this discussion."

FIFA has said world football’s governing body would need to receive an official request from the Qatar FA before any change of the 2022 tournament dates could be formally discussed.

Bin Hammam, a member of FIFA’s executive committee, said no request would be forthcoming.

"We are not interested – we are very happy and we are promising the world that we are going to organize an amazing world cup in June and July," he said.

Bin Hammam’s comments are the latest in a series of criticisms of Blatter, who will run for re-election as FIFA President in May.

Asked by Sky if he was planning to run against Blatter, Bin Hammam replied simply: "No comment."

Bin Hammam’s reluctance to confirm his intentions are in stark contrast to comments he made in August last year, when he categorically ruled out a bid to topple Blatter.

FIFA’s decision to award the World Cup to Qatar in Zurich last month has attracted a firestorm of criticism after a bidding campaign dogged by allegations of corruption.

Bin Hammam said FIFA needed to be "more transparent" if it wanted to avoid a reputation for corruption in future.

"It’s (FIFA) an organization which is more than 104 years old," he said.
"We should modernize ourselves in such a way as to reflect the real stakeholders – member associations, leagues, clubs, players, coaches," he said.

"A lot of things could be done. Maybe the actual administration can do that, they have to commit themselves to doing that.

"The structure is not helpful or useful for our world," Bin Hammam added.


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