A task force for FIFA, world soccer's governing body, recommended after a meeting in Doha on Tuesday that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar take place in November and December.
The announcement follows many months of speculation that the tournament would be moved from its traditional summer slot to the northern hemisphere's winter over fears that the searing Qatari summer temperatures would pose a risk to both players and fans.
The tiny Gulf state can soar above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in summer , while in November and December temperatures drop to around mid-20s Celsius (75 Fahrenheit), the BBC reported.
It is expected that the recommendation will be ratified at a meeting of FIFA's executive committee in Zurich on March 18–19, the BBC said.
FIFA faced a number of issues when deciding on what date to hold the contest. Not only would a move to winter mean a mid-season break for dozens of domestic league seasons around the world, but it had to avoid clashing with a number of other global sporting and religious events.
In a statement, FIFA outlined the reasons for its decision:
Given that the two bidding cities for the 2022 Winter Olympics - Almaty (Kazakhstan) and Beijing (China PR) - pledged recently to host the winter games from 4 to 20 February 2022; that the month of Ramadan begins on 2 April in 2022; and that consistently hot conditions prevail from May to September in Qatar, the only remaining effective option is the November/December window. For legal reasons, the 22nd edition of the FIFA World Cup must be played within the calendar year 2022.
Numerous outlets have reported suggestions that the 2022 World Cup final could be held on Dec. 23 — just two days before Christmas Day — with the tournament starting on Nov. 26.
The chief of the task force, Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, recommended that the tournament be shorter than usual by a few days. However, it will still feature the usual 32 teams and 64 matches.
In a statement, Khalifa said: "We are very pleased that, after careful consideration of the various opinions and detailed discussions with all stakeholders, we have identified what we believe to be the best solution for the 2018–2024 international match calendar and football in general."
Many oppose moving the tournament to winter.
It has been pointed out that Qatar was awarded the World Cup — ahead of rival bids from the United States, South Korea, Japan, and Australia — on the basis that it would take place in the summer months, and had promised groundbreaking air-cooling technology to bring the temperature of the arenas down.
Former England player Trevor Sinclair expressed his anger at the decision. "All the countries that were involved in the initial bids should get the option to bid again as FIFA have moved the goalposts," he told the BBC. "That's unacceptable and it should end up in the courts. It stinks and it should never have been given to Qatar."
The move to winter will also have a knock-on effect to major European leagues such as the English Premier League, Spain's La Liga, Germany's Bundesliga, and Italy's Serie A.
In a recent statement released prior to the announcement, the English Premier League said: "The prospect of a winter World Cup is neither workable nor desirable for European domestic football."
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore told ITV News Tuesday that he was disappointed with the task force's decision, and felt "let down."
Scudamore was himself on FIFA's taskforce committee, Sky News reported.
The details of the move are still likely to face some opposition within FIFA. The organization's vice president, Jim Boyce — from Northern Ireland — said the move to winter was "common sense," but that he would oppose a Dec. 23 final, ITV News reported:
I think that is too close to Christmas – that's the only reservation I would have and I would like it a week earlier, but I want to wait until the FIFA executive committee meeting to hear all the details about the dates.
It will cause a lot of disruption but it is eight years away and people should have enough time to make it work.