World Cup 2022 in Qatar back to 32 teams
Fifa drops plans for expanded 48-team tournament in Qatar after review
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be held with 32 participating teams and not an expanded 48 teams, organisers Fifa said yesterday.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino had proposed expanding the tournament and explored the idea of adding more host nations.
But the sport's world ruling body said in statement: "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."
Fifa and Qatar also looked at whether the Gulf state could host an expanded tournament alone by changing the normal requirements for facilities.
"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 the host country, more time would be required and a decision could not be taken before the deadline of June," Fifa said.
"It was therefore decided not to further pursue this option."
Infantino began to back away from the idea in March, when after a Fifa Council meeting in Miami, he said: "If it happens - fantastic. If it doesn't happen - fantastic also."
The expansion was a pet project of Infantino, who pushed the idea despite the likely need for Qatar's neighbours to put aside a two-year blockade and help to host an expanded tournament.
The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and non-Gulf state Egypt cut political, trade and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017.
Those countries accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, which it denies.
"The involvement of these countries in the organisation of the tournament jointly with Qatar implies the lifting of this blockade, in particular the lifting of restrictions on the movement of people and goods," said a feasibility study submitted to March's Fifa Congress in Miami.
The study, seen by AFP, also claimed that a Qatar World Cup with 48 teams would generate "between US$300-400 million (S$413.6-551.5 million) of additional income".
Specifically, Fifa was counting on an additional US$120 million in TV rights, US$150 million in marketing rights and US$90 million from ticket sales.
The news comes after Europe's top clubs said in March they would boycott an expanded 24-team Club World Cup - also backed by Infantino - planned for June and July 2021, to replace the Confederations Cup.
An announcement of the final decision had not been expected until next month's Fifa Congress in Paris, ahead of the women's World Cup in France from June 7 to July 7.
Qatar's Supreme Committee, charged with the tournament's organisation, 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."
But it said there was insufficient time to make a deeper assessment before the June deadline and "it was therefore decided not to further pursue this option". - AFP, REUTERS
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