DOHA: To keep the 2022 World Cup small or big?
This question will be answered at football’s world governing body (FIFA) summit in Paris on June 5 – with hosts Qatar having a big say in it.
Qatar is now preparing for a 32-team World Cup while FIFA are mulling over an expansion plan to 48.
The 2022 World Cup chief executive officer Nasser Al Khater (pic) said it should not be a unilateral decision.
“The decision to expand the tournament will only take place after an agreement between FIFA and Qatar. At the moment, it remains at 32,” he said.
“No one will unilaterally make a decision. We’re studying and looking at it. We want to do what’s best for football.
“There are lots of positives in expanding the competition to 48 but there are also advantages to keeping it at 32. A decision will be made in Paris but the planning right now is for 32 teams.”
In order for the tiny gulf state to accommodate a larger format, FIFA may have to look at co-hosting.
But there will be challenges as there’s an ongoing dispute between Qatar and some of its neighbours; there is a ban on alcohol and lack of facilities to handle a larger audience.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have placed a political and trade blockade on Qatar since mid-2017, claiming that the tiny state supports terrorism, but Doha has always denied the allegations.
The blockade has dampened efforts by FIFA president Gianni Infantino to push forward for a capable World Cup co-host even as qualifying matches begin early next month.
Qatar will be the smallest country to host the World Cup but Nasser is pleased with their progress. They have completed two stadiums and another six more will be ready by next year.
“We’re expecting a minimum of one more stadium to be up and ready in 2019,” said Nasser.
“The second or third will be completed in the beginning of 2020. Even if there is a delay, it will not go beyond 2021.”
The 2022 World Cup will be the first to be held in the Middle East and only the second in Asia, after the 2002 edition in Japan-South Korea.