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FIFA 'to look at Qatar dates'
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has announced the first step in a process which could lead to the Qatar 2022 World Cup moving to the winter - but stressed there is no threat to the Middle East country losing the tournament.
FIFA's executive committee has agreed to begin a consultation process and no decision on dates will be made until the end of next year - and maybe not until 2015.
A working group will look at all the impacts of moving the tournament from June/July due to the extreme heat in the Gulf at that time of year.
Jerome Valcke, the FIFA general secretary, will head the group and it is expected Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore will be asked to take part.
Blatter told a news conference in Zurich: "The FIFA World Cup 2022 will be played in Qatar. There you have it. Qatar will have 2022 but we don't know if it will be winter or summer."
The consultations will take place with clubs, leagues, national associations, confederations and players' groups, plus FIFA's sponsors and broadcast partners. It will also look into the issue of whether any compensation will be demanded and, if so, on what scale.
"There are also economic partners involved be they from marketing, the media and television, and we need to bear in mind our obligations to these partners," said Blatter.
"We need to carry out very deep consultations and investigations and show some diplomacy and wisdom.
The Premier League, which had been pushing for FIFA not to make any firm decision before consulting widely, welcomed the outcome.
A Premier League spokesman said: "We welcome the news that FIFA intends to conduct a thorough consultation process involving all of the appropriate stakeholders, including confederations, associations, leagues and clubs."
FIFA member Michel D'Hooghe, from Belgium, claimed it would be 2015 at the earliest before a final decision is made on dates.
He said: "At the earliest in 2015. We need some concrete information - this will not be done in two days.
"We have to look together with our marketing and broadcast partners.
"Don't expect any decision from the commission before the World Cup in Brazil.
"We have two World Cups before Qatar where we also have concerns."
Blatter said, however, it is more likely to be the end of next year, adding: "It cannot be later than 2015 - probably the end of 2014."
Blatter also announced he will visit Qatar and meet the country's new Emir to "confirm" the World Cup and will raise the issue of the mistreatment of migrant workers.
It follows an investigation which revealed that dozens of Nepalese workers have died in Qatar this year, and the findings have caused consternation and embarrassment to 2022 World Cup organisers and FIFA.
Qatar's supreme committee has written to FIFA outlining its commitment to tackle the abuses, and Blatter said: "I will go with a delegation in the name of the ExCo of FIFA for a courtesy visit but it is also a visit to confirm the World Cup 2022.
"I will also touch on this concern which concerns many people in the world and that is the working conditions in that country, but we can't be the ones who can change it.
"It is a responsibility not only for Qatar but the construction companies, and there are many European companies working there. We cannot turn a blind eye but we cannot make a direct intervention - but the Qatar government have confirmed they will do so."
Blatter also refused to be drawn on any possible outcome of FIFA ethics chief Michael Garcia's ongoing investigation into the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups - the American attorney has only just started speaking to bidding countries, including England, despite the review being announced in November last year.
He said: "The ethics committee is totally independent and has nothing to do with the executive committee and we have no influence over it."