By Karolos Grohmann
BERLIN, July 24 (Reuters) – Awarding the 2022 soccer World Cup to Qatar’s desert state was a “blatant mistake” FIFA executive committee member Theo Zwanziger said on Wednesday, adding that staging the tournament in winter would be just as big a problem.
German Zwanziger’s attack on the decision to give the tiny energy-rich Gulf state the world’s biggest single sports event comes after FIFA president Sepp Blatter repeated his view that the finals could not be played in the traditional summer slot.
“It was a blatant mistake,” Zwanziger, formerly head of the German football federation (DfB) told Sportbild magazine, referring to the decision taken by world soccer’s governing body in December 2010.
Zwanziger, who joined the FIFA executive the following year, also said shifting the tournament to the winter months would put the unity of German football in danger.
“Changing the World Cup to the winter is going deep into the structures of European national federations and also amateur football in Germany.”
“A change in playing schedules does not only affect the Bundesliga but continues affecting lower divisions due to the link with promotion and relegation. The game pyramid is in danger and so is the unity of German football.”
Moving the World Cup to the winter would have a seismic effect on soccer scheduling in Europe.
Many leagues outside Britain have a winter break but would need a hiatus of at least six weeks to accommodate national teams preparing for, and playing at, the World Cup finals.
The English Premier League, despite not having a winter break, has repeatedly voiced its strong disagreement with moving the tournament to the winter months.
“A winter World Cup would mean public viewing with ice skating boots in freezing temperatures,” said Zwanziger.
“If the decision was really a mistake it should be lifted and should not become an even bigger burden for those who are not involved by changing it to the winter.”
Moving the World Cup to January or February would also have an impact on attendances and television viewing figures for other sporting events like the Australian Open tennis tournament, skiing and the Winter Olympics.
Blatter said a month after the decision was taken that he expected the tournament to be moved to the winter. Last week he said a summer World Cup in Qatar was out of the question.
Temperatures in Qatar in June and July regularly hit 40C (104f) or higher with 45C (113f) recorded last month.
“You can cool down the stadiums but you can’t cool down the whole country and you can’t simply cool down the ambience of a World Cup,” Blatter told a conference in Austria.
“The players must be able to play in the best conditions to play a good World Cup.”
Blatter had previously stressed that any request to change the timing of the 2022 World Cup would have to come from the organisers but said last week that the FIFA executive committee would meet to discuss the issue in October. (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Mike Collett and Ken Ferris)