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Hold 2022 World Cup a month early says bid evaluator

Chief FIFA inspector Harold Mayne-Nicholls speaks during a news conference for the FIFA Inspection Visit for the Qatar 2022 World Cup Bid in
Chief FIFA inspector Harold Mayne-Nicholls speaks during a news conference for the FIFA Inspection Visit for the Qatar 2022 World Cup Bid in

By Mike Collett

LONDON (Reuters) - Harold Mayne-Nicholls, who claims his warnings about playing the World Cup in Qatar in June and July were ignored by FIFA when they awarded the Gulf state the tournament, has suggested it should be played in May and June instead.

Mayne-Nicholls, the chairman of FIFA's Evaluation group that studied the nine bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in finite detail, on Wednesday proposed three alternative times of the year for the 2022 tournament: January/February, May/June and October/November.

Since it started in 1930, the World Cup has traditionally been held in June and July, occasionally starting in the last few days of May.

"If we played it in May and June it could start on May 20 and finish on June 19 when it would be warm but not like it is in the heat of July. The Champions League final could be on April 30," he told delegates at the Leaders in Football conference.

"FIFA president Sepp Blatter has suggested October/November, while UEFA have proposed January and February. They all pose challenges, but Qatar won the vote to stage the finals and it should be played there, but we have to find a new time of year."

Qatar were awarded the 2022 finals in December 2010, beating off rival bids from the United States, Australia, South Korea and Japan, despite the report from Mayne-Nicholls and his inspection team that spelt out the dangers to the FIFA executive committee which included reference to the summer heat that can rise as high as 50C (122F).

He implied on Wednesday he had favored the United States for 2022 saying that an estimated 1.6 to 2.0 million fans would have travelled to the U.S. for the finals and had a huge party.

"Football belongs to the fans," he said, "The World Cup will not be the World Cup if fans are staying in the hotel lobby.

"We have to work with the fans in mind, it's not a TV show, it's a fans show."

Mayne-Nicholls, the former chairman of the Chile FA, added: "My team made its report to the executive committee, but I think they had already taken their decision.

"But there were some problems with Qatar. There was a big risk with just one city for 64 games and there are risks regarding the training sites. They want to cool down all the fields, but in case the cooling system breaks down, that will create a big problem.

"To play in June and July there can be very risky for the players in those conditions. Even with a green cooling system, it can be really dangerous.

"Now three years later, the FIFA exco seem to be taking notice of the report realizing it will be hard for the players, the fans and everyone else, and have set up a task force to look at the problem."

NO WASTE

Mayne-Nicholls and his team travelled to 11 countries -- there were two joint-bids for the 2018 finals -- in a six-month period during 2010 before FIFA took the decision to award the 2018 finals to Russia and 2022 to Qatar.

Asked if he thought he had wasted his time, he said: "No. I did a professional job, I published the report, it was on the web, everyone could read it. I don't feel I wasted my time, totally the contrary, you think if it was a waste of time, you'd all be interviewing me today?

"Maybe the report was ignored in December 2010, but today I heard the chairman of the English FA quote it, and FIFA are looking at when the World Cup can be held, so no, it was not a waste of time, even though they ignored it then."

Earlier, English FA chairman Greg Dyke told delegates the 2022 finals would never be played in the Middle East summer, even though he has no say in the decision as his organization do not have a seat on the executive committee.

Sunil Gulati, the president of the United States Soccer Federation, who joined the FIFA executive committee in April, told reporters in response to Dyke's comments: "I did not see him at the meeting last week when we set up the task force so I am not sure how he is so sure.

"There is no agreed consensus or agreement yet on what is going to be a very important review of when the World Cup will be staged."

(Reporting by Mike Collett, editing by Justin Palmer)

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