A former senior FIFA official has said that he believes Qatar could still host the 2022 World Cup in the summer, but only if matches were played late at night.
Harold Mayne-Nicholls said that if the tournament took place in May or early June, matches could be scheduled at 7pm, 10pm and 1am Qatar time to avoid the worst of the heat.
This would mean, he acknowledged, that players and fans would “sleep during the day and work during the night.”
This is not the first time that night matches have been proposed. In 2012, FIFA’s Vice President Jim Boyce suggested match kick-offs at 10pm, to take advantage of cooler temperatures.
The later matches may also benefit TV schedules, catching late evening in Europe, early evening in the East coast of the US and early morning in much of Asia.
However, 1am matches are the latest suggestion put forward as FIFA tries to find a suitable slot in the calendar for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup.
The Gulf country won hosting rights to the event based on it being held during its usual period of June/July, but the searing heat and humidity at this time of year have caused many to question this decision.
Mayne-Nicholls led FIFA’s technical team in examining the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and at the time warned about Qatar’s suitability to hold a World Cup in the middle of the summer.
The former Chilean football chief is considering challenging current FIFA President Sepp Blatter for the top spot during the organization’s 2015 elections.
This week, he told BBC Sport his solution for a summer tournament was to “play the first games at 7pm, the second games at 10pm and the third matches at 1am.”
“You’d change everything. It would be a couple of hours behind in Europe, and that would help TV. I know it’s not easy. We’d sleep during the day and work during the night.”
He also suggested holding youth tournaments in Qatar during May to see how the idea would work. Temperatures are already on the rise during that month, reaching the 40Cs by the end of May.
Blatter weighs in
Meanwhile, in an interview with French radio station France Info yesterday, Blatter reasserted his preference for the tournament to take place in November/December.
“For me, that is the best solution. We can’t play (the World Cup) in the summer.
The date which is most convenient is end of the year, because to play at the beginning of 2022 is when the Winter Olympics take place,” he said.
“We can lower the temperature in the stadium, but we cannot put the whole country under one roof,” he added, referring to Qatar’s plans to employ high-tech cooling systems in its stadiums, to combat the mid-summer temperatures which can hit nearly 50 degrees.
FIFA’s officials have already opened talks to decide on a date for the Qatar tournament.
Its first consultation with representatives from the six continental confederations, clubs, leagues and players’ unions took place early last month, and a follow-up meeting is scheduled for November.
Three options are on the table – the traditional June/July period, November/December 2022 and also January/February 2022.
Blatter had previously ruled out the last slot, over concerns it would clash with the Winter Olympics, which are traditionally held at this time of year.
However, International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said that Blatter had contacted the IOC to reassure them that there would be no clash of calendars.
Meanwhile, the European clubs and leagues have long voiced their opposition to a Winter World Cup, which would mean introducing an eight-week break at the height of the football season.