- Associated Press - Friday, October 4, 2013

ZURICH (AP) - After all the talk about changing the dates of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, it will be another year or more before any decision is made.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter ordered “deep consultations” Friday about shifting the tournament from the scorching summer heat in the Gulf country, saying a decision on the highly divisive issue might be delayed until 2015.

Blatter also reiterated that the tournament will definitely stay in Qatar, and said he will travel to the desert nation to raise concerns over the treatment of migrant workers involved in building World Cup venues, transportation links and hotels.

“The 2022 World Cup will be played in Qatar _ that’s it,” Blatter said. “We don’t know if it’s winter or summer. I do not know what will be the outcome.”

Momentum now seems unstoppable for moving the dates of FIFA’s showcase event because of the searing summer temperatures in the tiny emirate.

FIFA’s executive committee agreed Friday to set up a working group to study the options of changing the tournament from the usual June-July period.

“We need to carry out very deep consultations. We need to show some diplomacy and wisdom,” Blatter said.

The two-day FIFA board session followed weeks of intense speculation, fueled by Blatter, that FIFA would switch the dates even without a request from Qatari organizers.

Instead, Blatter outlined a longer timetable for a consultation process led by FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke. The group will report to the board after the 2014 World Cup finishes in Brazil next July.

“Let us first play the World Cup in 2014 with an easy conscience,” Blatter said.

The FIFA leader said a “road map” for the process would be completed at the Dec. 4-5 board meeting in Brazil.

The consultations will involve medical experts, FIFA’s broadcast and sponsor partners and the influential European leagues and clubs, which worry about schedule disruptions.

Blatter said his executive committee member Michel D’Hooghe was “not so wrong” when he told The Associated Press that a decision was expected in 2015 “at the earliest.”

“I cannot contradict what he said,” Blatter said at a news conference.

In 2015, the politics of FIFA already figures to be intense with a presidential election due in May of that year. A delayed decision on 2022 would surely become a campaign issue. Blatter has not ruled out running for a fifth term when he will be 79.

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