Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, President of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), said during a visit to London that he is “sure this solution or decision won’t be taken before the first quarter of 2015”.
Interviewed at Premier League headquarters where he was signing a mutual cooperation agreement between the League and the AFC, Sheikh Salman said there would be meetings before the end of the year to talk through the issues at FIFA House in Zurich, “but at the end of the day I think the FIFA [Executive Committee] decision will be made hopefully by the first quarter and address all the concerns”.
FIFA set up the task force to conduct consultations last October, at a time when momentum appeared to be gathering to formalise a shift in the tournament’s timing away from the heat of a Gulf summer.
The knock-on consequences of any such move for the football world and others with an interest in one of the planet’s pre-eminent sporting tournaments would, however, be far from negligible.
The task force is an attempt to ensure that all conceivable issues are identified and talked through with those most directly affected before a ruling is made.
Sheikh Salman would not rule out the possibility that the tournament might yet take place in June/July 2022, as originally scheduled.
“As we speak now, it is still in June/July,” he said. “But I think the form of this task force is to look at the other options and the concerns that some will have.”
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said the “whole point” of the task force was to take everybody’s views and opinions into account.
“Qatar were awarded it; Qatar should hold it,” he said, adding: “It was awarded in full knowledge of the conditions.
“The bid book itself contained how they were going to deal with those conditions.
“Therefore as far as we are concerned that is the current situation…
“In fairness to the other bidding countries they also bid on the basis it was going to be held in the summer.
“Still, as Sheikh Salman rightly says, that is currently the decision and that is currently what is happening…
“It got quite busy last October/November when it looked like it was racing towards some alternative decision.
“We just said, ‘Stop. This is complicated, it’s complex. It needs looking at properly. All factors need to be considered.
“It all needs to be weighed up in the round and could we just please calm the process down and do this properly.’
“That is now what the [Executive Committee] has asked to be done and Sheikh Salman is chairing the task force to look at. Hopefully our views will be considered in that process.”