2022 World Cup in Qatar to remain as a 32-team tournament, Fifa announces



  • World game’s governing body considered having 48 teams
    • Feasibility study shows increasing size of event is not practical

David Conn – The Guardian

Qatar is set to host the World Cup in 2022. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Efforts by the Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, to expand the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams, which he said could help heal hostilities in the Middle East, have concluded in failure, with the tournament remaining solely in Qatar, with 32 competing national teams.

The expansion plan was based on sharing matches with neighbouring countries in the gulf, where Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain broke off relations with Qatar in June 2017 and blockaded its land borders. Infantino argued that sharing some World Cup matches could “build bridges” between the countries because “football makes miracles”, and a feasibility study was conducted into expansion – but the miracle has not come to pass.


In a statement issued a fortnight before the decision was due to be taken at Fifa’s congress, on 5 June, it said: “Following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process with the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders, it was concluded that under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now.”

An internal report at Fifa is reported to have concluded that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain could not host matches while the blockade was still in force, even if they wanted to share the tournament with Qatar. The human-rights implications of involving Saudi Arabia have also escalated enormously since the murder at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.

Oman, which is not part of the blockade, was reported to have declined the opportunity to host matches, and although Infantino visited Kuwait last month to explore its possibilities, Fifa decided it did not have enough time to upgrade its facilities.

Qatar has been spending billions of dollars since it won the shock vote in 2010, substantially expanding its Khalifa International Stadium and building seven new state-of-the-art arenas, with a further $200m being spent on a new metro system, roads and other infrastructure.

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Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general of Qatar’s supreme committee for delivery and legacy, told the Guardian in November that it was cooperating with the feasibility study, but continuing its preparations for a 32-team tournament, solely in Qatar .

Fifa said it had explored the feasibility of Qatar itself hosting a 48-team tournament but concluded that could not be done in time. “The Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 will therefore remain as originally planned with 32 teams, and no proposal will be submitted at the next Fifa congress on 5 June,” the statement said.

In a statement, the Qatar supreme committee said: “Qatar had always been open to the idea of an expanded tournament in 2022 had a viable operating model been found and had all parties concluded that an expanded 48-team edition was in the best interest of football and Qatar as the host nation. A joint analysis, in this respect, concluded that due to the advanced stage of preparations and the need for a detailed assessment of the potential logistical impact on Qatar, more time would be required and a decision could not be taken before the deadline of June. It was therefore decided not to further pursue this option.

“With just three and a half years to go until kick off, Qatar remains as committed as ever to ensuring the 32-team World Cup in 2022 is one of the best tournaments ever and one that makes the entire Arab world proud.”



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