Qatar wants talks on feasibility of 48-team World Cup

Qatar wants talks on feasibility of 48-team World Cup
The country's infrastructure is already stretched thin as it builds eight stadiums to become the first Middle Eastern country to host the FIFA World Cup.
3 min read
15 April, 2018
Qatar Football Association and FIFA presidents (L to R) at a Doha press conference [Getty]
Qatar wants talks with FIFA to discuss the feasibility of increasing the 2022 World Cup, which the Gulf state is hosting, to 48 teams after the body expressed interest in enlarging the tournament. 

The announcement follows two day after South American football nations asked to fast-track the jump from 32 to 48 teams at World Cups by four years. 

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who has already secured approval for World Cup expansion from 2026, has said he is receptive to the CONMBEOL request while acknowledging a feasibility study was required.

But Qatar's infrastructure, which is already stretched by the requirements of staging the Middle East's first World Cup, will be exacerbated if expanding the tournament gets a green light for 2022.

The number of games would then rise from 64 to 80.

"Before any decision is taken it is important that discussions are held on the operations and logistics of an increase in size of the tournament in Qatar," the Qatar World Cup organising committee said in a statement to AP on Saturday.

"Regardless of the outcome, we are confident in our ability to deliver a successful World Cup in 2022," it added. 

The tiny oil-rich Gulf state only has eight football stadiums planned for. Expanding the tournament might require additional stadiums, either in Qatar or if a neighbour agrees to host some of the matches. 

The tournament is already under further pressure than in past years to operate on a tight 28-day schedule. The World Cup is typically hosted in the usual June-July slot, but was shifted for 2022 to avoid Qatar's extreme summer heat.

The Gulf diplomatic crisis - which broke out in June 2017 after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE, along with regional power Egypt, cut off diplomatic ties to Qatar - has raised further uncertainty about the tournament. 

Kuwait, a Gulf state that retains diplomatic ties with Qatar, could be a contender for sharing some of the World Cup hosting duties if the number of teams are expanded. However, bringing another nation into the hosting, or requiring Qatar to build more stadiums, could increase the human rights scrutiny that has dogged it since winning the FIFA vote in 2010.

Rights groups say there could be 4,000 deaths by the time Qatar completes building its final stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. In 2015, a controversial Washington Post report cited at least 1,200 migrant deaths until that point.

Amnesty International has said the 2022 tournament is being "built on human rights abuses".

Qatar has responded to criticism and said progress was being made to improve the rights of migrant workers, including a number of labour reforms.

Doha recently pledged to improve human rights for foreigners, by introducing a $200 per month minimum wage, as well as allowing workers freedom to leave the country and change jobs without their employer's permission.

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