UEFA members back winter World Cup in Qatar

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DUBROVNIK, Croatia (AP) — European soccer failed to reach consensus on Thursday in the intensifying debate on switching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from summer to winter.

Though UEFA's 54 member countries on Wednesday supported the change which threatens upheaval in soccer's historic seasonal calendar, its influential policy advisory body has refused to agree to anything before detailed consultation with FIFA.

Clubs, leagues and players' unions which join national federations in the Professional Football Strategy Council declined to give UEFA President Michel Platini approval for the change, which FIFA President Sepp Blatter says his board should decide on next month.

"It's not an agreement," Theo van Seggelen, secretary general of the FIFPro group of unions, told The Associated Press after the strategy panel discussion. "That has to be agreed by FIFA and we want to be involved in the discussion."

Van Seggelen said the summer heat in Qatar was the most important of several unanswered questions for FIFPro.

One day earlier, UEFA members gave Platini a mandate to back the FIFA move, and prefer to play in January in Qatar.

Platini must weigh how to represent accurately the conflicting views within his soccer family when he leads an eight-strong UEFA delegation at the 27-member FIFA executive committee session in Zurich on Oct. 3-4.

Blatter, who is an International Olympic Committee member, has suggested a November 2022 kickoff, which would avoid impact on the Winter Games scheduled in mid-February.

In a statement on Thursday, the IOC said it was aware of the Qatar discussion.

"We are confident that FIFA will discuss the dates with us so as to coordinate them and avoid any effect on the Winter Games," the Olympic body said.

Van Seggelen strongly opposes a summer World Cup in Qatar, though a move to winter could raise health issues if it forced hundreds of clubs to alter league calendars and play through the hot southern European summer.

"We will not play in Qatar but also not play in other (hot) places, so for us it's simple," he said. "We don't play in the heat because it's not in compliance with our policy."

Dutch league official Frank Rutten, one of four European Professional Football Leagues delegates on the UEFA panel, said he was "satisfied with the outcome" of the two-hour session.

"We only say that the decision should be made only after proper consultation," Rutten said.

Wealthy European leagues and the Champions League would face most disruption in their traditional August-to-May season.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman of the European Club Association and Champions League winner Bayern Munich, attended Thursday's meeting after suggesting this week that April 2022 was a better option for Qatar.

The clubs, league and unions have raised concerns about knock-on effects, including coordinating promotion and relegation places with lower divisions and depriving clubs of income during a general shutdown for the World Cup period.

"We have also responsibility for our other players because national team players are only 2 percent of our members," Van Seggelen said. "Whatever happens, (it should be) done in a way that also the other players are protected financially."

Amid an intensifying debate since the December 2010 hosting vote, Qatari World Cup organizers have never requested a change. They have consistently said they can stage a June-July tournament by developing air-cooling technology to lower temperatures in stadiums and training areas to around 81 degrees.

UEFA members said on Wednesday their main concern was the uncomfortable heat for fans, officials and workers operating outside the stadiums.

FIFPro delegate Bobby Barnes said there was a "strong movement" toward wanting Qatar to host the World Cup, but a winter tournament was not yet inevitable.

"People are unified that a summer World Cup is increasingly unlikely — whether that means a change in venue or a change in scheduling is still to be discussed," he told the AP.

Van Seggelen and Barnes are scheduled to meet Blatter in Zurich on Monday when they plan to also raise concerns about hot temperatures at some 2014 World Cup matches in Brazil.

"I don't understand, personally, that we have nine years," Van Seggelen said about the rush to alter preparations for the 2022 World Cup. "Let's first see what happens in Brazil."

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Follow Graham Dunbar at https://twitter.com/gdunbarap

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