Fifa reacted swiftly to comments on Wednesday by the international football governing body's secretary general, Jerome Valcke, that the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar would not be held in June-July because of the summer heat in the Gulf emirate.
Valcke told Radio France that "the dates for the World Cup [in Qatar] will not be June-July … 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."
But Fifa responded by saying that these 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, which start in June.
"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," said Fifa.
"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 winter 2021-22 or 2022-23, but the deciding factor could be the timing of the Winter Olympics in early 2022.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter has previously 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 since it was announced in December 2010, especially over the searing heat that bakes the Gulf emirate in summer when the tournament is traditionally held.
Calls had grown increasingly strident to switch it to winter to accommodate 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, which was fearful of any competition with the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Qatari World Cup organisers reacted with caution to Valcke's words, saying they would follow whatever directives they received from Fifa.
"During the Fifa executive committee meeting in October, it was agreed that Fifa would enter a period of consultation on the ideal time of year to host the World Cup in Qatar with a recommendation expected after the World Cup in Brazil," the Qatar 2022 supreme committee said.
"We await the outcome of this consultation period. We will be ready to host the World Cup regardless of the outcome." – Sapa-AFP