Qatar's World Cup bid feels the heat

Middle East tender of the 2022 World Cup may be dismissed on ethical grounds and the inconvenient timing in summer.

GENEVA // The portents for Qatar's bid to stage the World Cup in 2022 do not look encouraging after Fifa said yesterday that the desert heat could put players' health at risk.

And Qatar may yet be excluded from the bidding process today over allegations they broke Fifa rules by colluding with organisers of the joint Spain-Portugal bid to swap votes.

A six-member Fifa technical panel made four-day visits in July and September to each of the nine bidders for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The panel reported their findings to Fifa's executive committee to aid them in casting their votes on December 2.

The report on Qatar highlighted that the proposed 2022 finals would be played in June and July, "the two hottest months of the year in this region".

The report continued: "The fact … has to be considered as a potential health risk for players, officials, the Fifa family and spectators, and requires precautions to be taken."

Hassan al Thawadi, the chief executive of the Qatar bid, said the heat issue was being addressed through air-cooling systems to operate at stadiums, training camps and viewing zones where fans will gather to watch matches on giant screens.

"We are aware of the concerns expressed but we have ensured that all of them can be answered to the satisfaction of the global football family," al Thawadi said in a statement.

Mohamed bin Hammam, the Asian Football Confederation president, pointed out Qatar had planned revolutionary cooling techniques.

"The temperature inside the stadiums in July and August will be 25-26 degrees which is actually a perfect climate to play football," he said. "In some other countries people complain about the cold. In South Africa we had one of the best World Cups but the temperature was zero, which was not ideal."

The bid, however, received the seal of approval from Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager yesterday.

"I would back the Qatar bid," Ferguson told a sports conference. "I admire their purpose and vision."

Ferguson added that the Gulf state had a "marvellous chance" of hosting the finals, even amid worries about temperatures that can rise to 50°C.

Qatari organisers say they have tackled the issue by constructing climate-controlled, zero-carbon emitting stadiums. The country has harnessed solar-powered technology to cool stadiums to about 27°C.

Ferguson said the idea of dismantling modular stadia to be shipped to developing countries would be "absolutely fantastic" for football across the world.

All of Qatar's stadiums would be partly dismantled after the finals, with the extra seating shipped to developing nations who could reconstruct them as smaller stadiums for their own use.

"Addressing the hot climate issue and transporting the stadia to countries is very clever," added Ferguson.

Qatar has promised to spend US$4 billion (Dh14.7bn) to build nine new stadiums and to renovate three others, and to spend $49.2bn on infrastructure, including a new airport. Qatar's campaign seemed to get a major endorsement in April when Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, said: "The Arab world deserves a World Cup."

The possibility that the Qatar bid will be dismissed on ethical grounds today stems from an October 29 Fifa meeting at which Angel Villar Llona, the Spanish member, and bin Hammam, his Qatari colleague, passed a note, which read: "Congratulations, we are going to win."

The suggestion is that Qatar would support Spain-Portugal in voting for the 2018 World Cup in return for backing on Qatar's 2022 bid, a violation of Fifa rules.

Fifa's ethics committee also will announce today if two of the 24 voters - Reynald Temarii of Oceania and Amos Adamu of Africa - should be barred for allegedly offering their support for sale.

In its report on the bidders, Fifa's technical panel reported that 2018 candidates England and Spain-Portugal are "low-risk" options, while Russia faced challenges on providing transport infrastructure.

"I trust the committee and I'm sure they will come to the right decision to protect the integrity of the game," bin Hammam said. "From where I am sitting, I would like someone to tell me what the collusion is. It may be nice to say something is happening between Qatar and another bidder but please tell me exactly what it is?"

He repeated that eliminating joint ballots would reduce any possible misinterpretation of approach, adding: "Once this is in place, two people will no longer be able to talk about supporting each other. A lack of specific criteria needs to be addressed."

Japan and South Korea are bidding individually for 2022 and, along with Australia, pose potential commercial problems for Fifa, which gets about 95 per cent of its income from the tournament, the report said.

Playing in Asia meant "a risk of a reduction in TV income and, as a result, commercial revenue from Europe and the Americas. The income from Asia-Oceania would need to be increased substantially to offset the likelihood of loss of revenue."

* Compiled with agencies