The executive members of FIFA began a two-day meeting on Thursday in Zurich to formally discuss switching the 2022 Qatar World Cup from the summer to the winter months. The meeting is also expected to address the growing concerns over the appalling working conditions for Qatar's immigrant workers, who've suffered a wide variety of abuses while building the infrastructure for the tournament.
A task force is expected to examine the potential impacts of moving the tournament, which could represent the first step, although a final decision as a result of the meetings isn't likely.
“It was always media hype to expect the executive to come to such a decision this week without looking at all the consequences,” one source told The Evening Standard. “The World Cup is nine years away and there is no need to rush to make a decision.”
For months, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has insisted on moving from the traditional June-July format to avoid Qatar's searing heat, but he's expected to face opposition from the European leagues as well as TV executives in the US. A winter World Cup would cause a huge disruption to the Premier League and it could interfere with television schedules in the US, thus TV executives will likely be consulted before a decision.
A more pressing issue – the appalling conditions for immigrant workers tasked with building stadiums in Qatar – loomed over the meetings as well. A recent investigative series in The Guardian revealed horrific working conditions for the Nepalese immigrant workers.
As the paper wrote, “the investigation found evidence to suggest that thousands of Nepalese, who make up the single largest group of laborers in Qatar, face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery, as defined by the International Labor Organiztion, during a building binge paving the way for 2022.”
UEFA President Michel Platini, a FIFA executive member, confirmed it was on the agenda.
“I'm much more concerned about that than the discussion about summer and winter,” he said.