Sepp Blatter addresses World Cup issue during visit to Northern Ireland

Sepp Blatter
Sepp Blatter

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has insisted the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will finish no later than December 18 – a move which would protect English football’s traditional Boxing Day games.

The 78-year-old was in Northern Ireland for this weekend’s International Football Association Board (IFAB) meeting and admitted some leagues were “not so happy” about a winter World Cup.

Blatter’s promise was welcomed by David Gill, Britain’s UEFA vice-president and a Football Association board member, who said FA Cup replays, international friendly dates and the two-legged League Cup semi-finals may have to be given up to accommodate the winter World Cup.

UEFA has proposed playing the final at the tournament on December 23, just two days before Christmas, to lessen disruption its own international matches.

That sparked uproar in Britain as it would threaten the traditional festive club programme and a final decision on the dates will be taken by FIFA’s executive committee on March 20.

Blatter, speaking for the first time since a FIFA task force confirmed November/December for the 2022 World Cup, said: “Not until the 23rd, definitely not. We have to stop at the 18th.”

Gill welcomed Blatter’s statement, saying: “I’m encouraged by the fact that president Blatter has come out and said it can’t be on the 23rd and the 18th would be the latest it can be, which I think is at least a move in the right direction. You’ve got big enough squads to have a match on Boxing Day, I would’ve thought.

“There will have to be compromise on all fronts. So, friendlies given up, there may be some FA Cup replays, League Cup semi-final being one legged.

“Everyone’s going to have to do it.

“It’s like any negotiation. If one person thinks they’ve won hands down then the other person’s going to be upset.

“Everyone needs to feel they’ve given something. It’s not the best result, we all know that.

“But we are where we are. It’s going to be in Qatar. Therefore, everyone has to give it up.

“So, if a couple of international dates go or the FA Cup replays go or whatever, the dual games. We’ll have to look at that.”

Blatter admitted that the decision to hold the World Cup in the winter in order to avoid the summer heat of Qatar had infuriated clubs and leagues.

He said: “They are not so very happy and it’s so good now to make a little bit of noise about FIFA and about the World Cup in Qatar.

“There are more than six years - particularly seven years - to prepare. And there is a goodwill.

“There will be a solution and I’m sure everybody will be fine.”

Blatter also ruled out paying any compensation to clubs for the disruption but said he was in touch with European Clubs’ Association chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who has demanded financial recompense.

He added: “I don’t think why they should. This is a problem that we have not now discussed in depth. But, definitely, we are in contact.

“I have been personally in contact with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge before this decision to see how a solution can be found.”