Fifa has been warned by the International Olympic Committee that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar must not clash with the Winter Games.
The battleground over the timing of the tournament has shifted to precisely when in the winter it should be held after European countries on Thursday gave their overall backing to moving Fifa’s flagship event from the summer to avoid Qatar’s extreme heat.
Many delegates expressed a preference for it to be played in January or February of that year but that could have a direct impact on the 2022 Winter Olympics, something the IOC on Thursday made clear it would not countenance.
“We were aware that Fifa might consider changing the dates for the 2022 World Cup,” a spokesman said. “We are confident that Fifa will discuss the dates with us so as to co-ordinate them and avoid any effect on the Winter Games.”
Although Fifa is in no way beholden to the IOC, the latter organisation does have the power to expel football from the Summer Olympics.
That would be a minor disaster for Fifa, whose executive committee is expected to agree in principle to move the 2022 World Cup to the winter at its meeting in Zurich on October 3-4.
That was after the 54 European countries which make up Uefa sanctioned a switch on the proviso Fifa consulted with the game’s major stakeholders before making any decision about exactly when the tournament is staged.
Fifa vice-president and Uefa executive committee member Jim Boyce, speaking from the latter’s meeting in Dubrovnik, said: “There is still nine years to go and people feel Fifa should sit down with all the major stakeholders and come up with a solution that would cause the minimum disruption to football.”
The British associations told Thursday’s meeting they want to make sure Christmas week is protected for domestic football, while Uefa chiefs favour January so it would not impact on the Champions League.
Last week, Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke said Christmas matches would not be affected by any switch – and that there was no chance of moving the tournament from Qatar.
Valcke said: “We are not talking about taking Christmas or New Year away.
Christmas is safe. The World Cup will not be played between Dec 24-Jan 1, so that will mean Boxing Day is safe.
“We are not talking about removing, we are talking about moving, that’s key. We are talking about moving in the year 2022 in the country which has been awarded the World Cup.”