FIFA panel offered January or November as new kickoff dates for 2022 World Cup in Qatar

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ZURICH — FIFA has offered January and November in 2022 as alternative kickoff dates for the World Cup in Qatar.

FIFA said it presented the two options Monday when its consultation group first met to seek ways to avoid playing in the desert heat of June-July.

FIFA's executive committee should confirm the 2022 World Cup dates at its meeting in March in Zurich.

However, the January-February tournament option probably could not happen if the 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled in the traditional February slot.

IOC president Thomas Bach has already said FIFA President Sepp Blatter assured him the two events would not clash.

Blatter has repeatedly said the World Cup cannot be played in the Qatari summer, even though the organizing committee has stood by its pledge to build air-cooled stadiums and play in summer.

FIFA's consultation group — including clubs, leagues, players' unions and Qatari organizing head Hassan al-Thawadi — will meet again in November. A further meeting is expected in February.

Delegates were asked to "provide detailed information on how the different proposed dates ... will impact their relevant competitions, activities and/or stakeholders," FIFA said in a statement.

Europe's top leagues face closing down for up to two months in mid-season. The Champions League also currently plays half of all group matches in November and December.

Playing in Qatar's winter is likely to affect the clubs' schedules for one year before and after the World Cup season, which needs to start earlier and finish later than normal.

To plan for a three-season disruption, the FIFA consultation panel is drafting the international match calendar from 2018 through 2024 — a six-year cycle instead of the usual four.

The FIFA international calendar sets dates for official national team matches and tournaments. Clubs are required to release their players for these national team duties.

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