Paris: The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will not be held in June and July but would best be staged in the winter time, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said today.
The scheduling of the tournament has been hotly debated ever since FIFA controversially awarded it to Qatar in December 2010, especially over fears that the summer heat in the Gulf emirate would be dangerous for players and fans alike.
"The dates for the World Cup (in Qatar) will not be June-July," Valcke, the second most powerful man in international football's governing body, told Radio France.
"To be honest, I think it will be held between November 15 and January 15 at the latest.
"If you play between November 15 and the end of December that's the time when the weather conditions are best, when you can play in temperatures equivalent to a warm spring season in Europe, averaging 25 degrees.
"That would be perfect for playing football."
However, FIFA itself reacted to Valcke's comments by saying they were his personal views and that no formal decision to move the date of the tournament would be taken before this year's World Cup finals in Brazil starting in June.
"Secretary General Jerome Valcke explained today in the Radio France interview -- as he had already mentioned previously -- that in his view the 2022 FIFA World Cup must take place in winter and the best possible time frame would be 15 November to 15 January," said FIFA.
"As the event will not be played until eight years' time the consultation process will not be rushed and will be given the necessary time to consider all of the elements relevant for a decision.
"Consequently, no decision will be taken before the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil as agreed by the FIFA executive committee."
Valcke did not say whether he favoured a World Cup in the winter of 2021-22 or 2022-23, but the deciding factor could be the timing of the Winter Olympics in early 2022.
The president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, has also voiced support for a winter World Cup with a preference for November-December over January-February.
The awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar has been beset by criticism, especially over the searing heat that bakes the Gulf emirate in the summer when the tournament is traditionally held.
Calls had grown increasingly strident to switch it to the winter time to accomodate players and supporters.
But this ran into opposition from European clubs, who would lose their top players for several weeks in the middle of the season and from the International Olympic Committee fearful of any competition with the 2022 Winter Olympics.
World Cup organising committee officials in Qatar have insisted they were prepared for all eventualities concerning the 2022 showpiece.
"From the beginning, we've always said we can stage the World Cup in summer," said Hassan Al-Thawadi, Secretary General of the Qatar 2022 Organising Committee last month.
"The cooling system for the stadia will be very much part of our legacy. But if the football world or FIFA want it to be staged in the winter then we are happy and ready. If they want it in summer, then we are still ready."
There was particular anger in England at FIFA giving the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a country, with little football tradition, while scorning the attempt by England, the sport's birthplace, to host the 2018 edition.
Jim Boyce, a FIFA vice-president from the British controlled province of Northern Ireland, said he was "totally surprised" by Valcke's decision to state what "may have been his personal opinion, even though there had been a widespread belief the 2022 World Cup could not be played in the summer due to the heat....