Will FIFA’s 48-team proposal force Qatar to share the World Cup?

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar, left, and Sheika Mozah bint Nasser al-Misned hold the World Cup trophy after the announcement of Qatar hosting the 2022 soccer World Cup in Zurich, Switzerland, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010. (AP)

Fifa is studying a proposal to expand the 2022 football tournament from 32 to 48 teams, an increase that could pose the greatest risk yet to Qatar's plan to host the first World Cup in the Arab world.

Qatar has already come under scrutiny over allegations of corruption and human rights abuses but that may be nothing compared with pressures it faces in the run-up to 2022.

"I think Fifa's proposal represents the biggest threat to the tournament simply because it would wrong-foot Qatar into sharing the tournament with other countries," said Simon Chadwick, a sports and geopolitics expert at Britain's Salford University.

Sharing the cup, he said, would represent "something of a defeat for Doha".

By the end of this year, three of the eight stadiums earmarked for 2022 will be completed.

The design for Lusail, the stadium set to host the World Cup 2022 final, is expected to be unveiled by the end of the year.

Qatar's colossal weekly budget of $500 million (Dh1.8 billion) on World Cup infrastructure has been used to build new roads, hotels, neighborhoods, even towns – its $36bn metro system is on track to open next year.

"Our projects are going ahead as scheduled," said Hassan Al Thawadi, one of the World Cup organizers, after the crisis began.

"This is no risk in relation to the hosting of the World Cup."

A Swiss investigation into the controversial awarding of the 2022 tournament to Qatar is continuing.

Should Fifa at its June 13 congress in Moscow move to expand the number of teams in the 2022 cup, Qatar would have to tackle a heavily expanded workload on a tight timeline.

A 50 per cent increase in teams would strain Qatar's ability to host the tournament.

While Doha initially bid for 12 stadiums, it is only building eight.

Questions have also been raised over how the country will accommodate the up to 1.5 million fans expected to attend the event – and that's before 16 teams are added.

Optimists suggest one solution could be to share the tournament with others in the region.
 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:51 - GMT 06:51
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