4 Min Read
By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Australia's soccer chief Frank Lowy has warned FIFA not to rush a decision on switching the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to the northern hemisphere winter and said other bidders should be compensated if the move goes ahead.
In a further sign of the complications a change could bring, U.S. broadcaster Fox said it had assumed the tournament would be held in its regular June-July slot when it outbid rival ESPN for the TV rights.
Qatar beat bids from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States to win the right to host soccer's showpiece tournament despite temperatures in the Gulf nation reaching 50 degrees Celsius in the middle of the year.
After heavy criticism of the decision, calls were made to move it from its normal date to the end of the year when temperatures in Qatar are lower.
Football Federation Australia (FFA) chairman Lowy, the billionaire owner of the Westfield shopping centre empire, said a quick decision over the move at FIFA's executive board meeting next month risked "making a bad situation worse".
As well as the other bidders, Lowy said countries with professional leagues, like Australia's top flight A-league, which would be disrupted by the move should also be compensated.
"Our season takes place during the Australian summer to avoid a clash with other local football codes," he said.
"If the World Cup were to be staged in the middle of our A-League season it would impact on our competition, not just for 2022, but for the seasons leading up to and beyond that date.
"Clubs, investors, broadcasters, players and fans would all be affected."
Fox, part of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox entertainment group, echoed that concern. The broadcaster paid an estimated $425 million for rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
"FIFA has informed us that they are considering and voting on moving the 2022 World Cup," Fox said in an e-mailed statement.
"Fox Sports bought the World Cup rights with the understanding they would be in the summer as they have been since the 1930s."
FIFA president Sepp Blatter last week stood by the decision to award the tournament to Qatar, saying the decision to play the tournament in the middle of the year was the only mistake.
"FIFA has an opportunity now to make the best of a bad situation by embarking on a transparent and orderly approach, unlike the process that led to the original flawed decision in December 2010," Lowy said in a statement.
Australia invested A$43 million ($40.17 million) in their failed bid to host the World Cup for the first time.
Lowy said the FFA had already contacted Blatter to explain Australia's position.
"Australia invested heavily in the World Cup process and the entire nation was behind the bid," he said.
Lowy also suggested that no decision on the switch be made until an investigation into the 2022 bidding process by FIFA's ethics committee was completed.
"Better to let the independent investigative process run its natural course and then, with those issues settled, make a clear-eyed assessment about rescheduling and its consequences," he added.