Ski boss worried about moving 2022 WCup to January

GRAHAM DUNBAR (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

ZURICH (AP) -- As FIFA's ruling board prepares to debate switching the 2022 World Cup dates in Qatar, skiing's top official warned a switch could weaken interest in winter sports ahead of that year's Olympics.

International Ski Federation President Gian Franco Kasper told The Associated Press on Wednesday he is ''getting worried'' that FIFA is pushing to move the World Cup from its traditional June-July dates in the crowded world sports calendar because of the summer heat in Qatar.

''It would be only fair within sports federations to respect each other,'' Kasper, an IOC member from Switzerland who has served on the coordination commission of each Winter Games since the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

A January tournament in Qatar - favored by influential European soccer leaders - would ''kill not only most commercial sites for the winter sports, but also for the public,'' Kasper said.

On Friday, FIFA President Sepp Blatter will lead his executive committee in talks he said should decide that the tournament cannot be played in the Qatari summer. Agreement is unlikely, with Blatter's board expected to call for a working group to assess the potential impact of change on the traditional soccer calendar.

Blatter has suggested a November kickoff in 2022, while UEFA President Michel Platini prefers January, a month before the 2022 Winter Olympics.

''If the international football community reaches a consensus to move the event to an alternate date, we are able to accommodate that change,'' the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee said in a statement Wednesday. ''Our commitment to cooling technologies will continue, for without it certain parts of the world will be denied the right to host such events.''

Kasper said he prefers the November date instead of January.

''If they do it in November, even December, we wouldn't like it but it's something we can live with,'' Kasper told The AP in an interview. ''In January, I tell you very honestly, this is our main season, not only for skiing, for all winter sports.''

Kasper said sports run by the seven Winter Olympics federations would be affected by the clash for broadcasters, sponsors and advertisers.

''They will say, 'We should have less spectators on television, why should we pay the same amounts?' This is understandable,'' he said.

Kasper said broadcasters would struggle to cover a World Cup and Winter Olympics back to back, even if the dates did not overlap.

''From a marketing side and particularly from the television networks, they could not even prepare their equipment in time in the right place,'' he said.

Competing with soccer's World Cup could take broadcast hours and fans' interest away from skiing and other Olympic sports, which rely on exposure in January to fuel interest in the Winter Games.

''If there are big soccer games, we feel it. If (the World Cup) would be in January then we really do, there is no question,'' he said. ''There is a saturation if you have sports for only two months, with the soccer World Cup and then the Winter Olympics. It's just too much going on within a short period.

''I don't think it's good and I don't understand FIFA, I don't think it helps themselves.''

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