Belfast Telegraph

Leagues speak out over World Cup

The Premier League and Football League put their shared disappointment on record on Saturday following FIFA's announcement that the 2022 World Cup will be played in November and December.

It was already known that neither league body would welcome a World Cup in the middle of the English season, but also that the climate in host country Qatar meant a summer tournament was not considered feasible by world governing body FIFA.

An inconvenient tournament had appeared an inevitability long before FIFA confirmed in Zurich on Thursday that its 2022 showpiece will run from November 21 to December 18.

The emphasis will now fall on ensuring disruption is kept to a minimum in the 2022/23 season, and in the campaigns either side.

The Premier League said in a statement: "While we remain very disappointed with the process and the outcome for deciding the timing of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, at least we now have fixed dates to work with.

"The Premier League's sole focus now is ensuring that the impact on our season is as limited as possible. This means there is still some discussion and accommodation required over call-up periods, international dates and other competition organisers' schedules."

While it seems certain the Premier League will have to shut down for close to two months, to allow players to head away to training camps, participate in the tournament, and return from Qatar, the same may not apply to the Football League.

Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey said: "While we remain disappointed that the 2022 World Cup will be staged during the playing season, having certainty over the dates will at least now give us the opportunity to consider the implications for the domestic league and cup fixture calendar both during the World Cup itself and elsewhere in the 2022/23 season."

Harvey added: "We will now seek prompt clarification as to whether domestic competitions will be permitted to continue during the period of the tournament, if that ultimately proves to be the choice of our clubs, and whether any such matches could be broadcast on television.

"There will also be any number of other practical issues to address with our clubs and other stakeholders."

Football League clubs may yet object to their season running through the World Cup, given the increasing number of international footballers at teams in the Championship, League One and League Two, who could be left weakened by call-ups.

A proposed December 23 date for the World Cup final, backed initially by UEFA, would have come as an even greater blow to the English leagues had it been confirmed by FIFA.

The approved tournament dates should at least allow the Premier League to open again for business for a Boxing Day round of games, with the top flight and Football League both knowing the value of the lucrative festive fixture programme.

And, as FIFA's director of communications Walter De Gregorio said in Zurich: "You have enough time to do your Christmas shopping."

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