World Cup - Study finds summer 2022 is possible

Sir Bobby Robson's Italia 90 sports science sidekick believes playing the 2022 Qatar World Cup in high summer is possible.

PA Sport
World Cup - Study finds summer 2022 is possible

View photo

Sir Bobby Robson took England to Tunisia to prepare for the 1990 World Cup

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke is firmly in the camp wanting the tournament switched to autumn or winter dates, rather than being played in the broiling desert heat of the Arabian Peninsula.

Dyke's primary concern, he said this month, is supporters, and FIFA president Sepp Blatter has also acknowledged travelling fans may be overwhelmed by the climate.

National governing bodies and FIFA also have concerns that players will be affected by the daily 40-degree heat.

But the FA's former head of human performance, Professor John Brewer, is adamant World Cups have been played in similarly stifling conditions in the past, picking out Mexico in 1986 as an example.

And providing teams take the necessary precautions, including a training block of up to a month in high temperatures, Professor Brewer is convinced the 2022 tournament can go ahead as planned.

If the World Cup was to begin, as is typical, in early June, that may mean moving the end of the British domestic season to late April, to allow players a short holiday before embarking on their challenging period of acclimatisation.

It would also mean, potentially, clubs not seeing their players for over two months.

But that may prove a preferred option to a winter World Cup, which would require a drastic rewriting of the football calendar, for the likes of Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore.

Brewer played a key role in England's preparations for the 1990 World Cup, and has conducted tests in an environmental chamber at the University of Bedfordshire, with one eye on Qatar.

The university's head of sports science has analysed results from use of the chamber, which can accommodate temperatures from minus five to plus 40 degrees Celsius.

Brewer said: "We're just trying to put a bit of application to the findings and in some way counteract what Greg Dyke said a few weeks ago. He said that players couldn't play under those conditions.

"But I'm led to believe the air-conditioning the Qataris are planning to put in will be way beyond what anyone has experienced before. It won't just be a couple of fans at each end of the stadium.

"We have done a series of studies that add up to the simulated physical demands of a football match in conditions that are maybe getting close to Qatar. We've looked at temperatures of 30 or 35 degrees and what you see understandably is that when players are exercising in heat they will dehydrate more rapidly.

"You can counter that with hydration policy and pre-cooling techniques. We're hoping pitch temperature will be 28 to 30 degrees, and I suspect FIFA would consider introducing drinks breaks in each half.

"You couldn't play a match at Premier League tempo in Qatari conditions. If England get through, they would have to change their tactics and slow down their play.

"If you like to see a style of play that sees the ball being passed around at a lower-tempo, then I think that's what we'll see in Qatar. And any team will be greatly reducing their chances if they don't go out three or four weeks early."

Without the high-heat training block, Brewer believes any team would struggle. It was a similar case, although not as extreme, when Robson's England travelled to Sardinia for the 1990 World Cup. Preparations included a trip to Tunisia.

"Bob was one of the first England managers to look at how sport science could support the team and lift their performance," Brewer said. "We gradually exposed players to training at the hottest times of the day.

"Over a two-week period, players became acclimatised to the heat. Their breathing became very similar to how they were when they left."

Brewer added: "At Mexico 86, what you got there was the combination of heat and altitude, and we have had World Cups at altitude in the past. Playing at Mexico was thousands of feet above sea level, I would argue that is significantly challenging."

View comments (1)