Lausanne - FIFA
shelved a proposed expansion of the 2022 Soccer World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams
on Wednesday, dealing a blow to the world football body's president
The 2022 tournament in the Gulf state will now be played with 32 nations taking part.
FIFA said it had abandoned the expansion plans "following a thorough
and comprehensive consultation process" which led to the conclusion that
"under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made
"(The tournament) will therefore remain as originally planned with 32
teams and no proposal will be submitted at the next FIFA Congress on 5
June," FIFA said in a statement.
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 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
The study, seen by AFP, also claimed that a Qatar World Cup with 48
teams would generate "between $300-$400 million of additional income".
Specifically FIFA was counting on an additional $120 million in TV
rights, $150 million in marketing rights and $90 million from ticket
The news comes after Europe's top football clubs said in March they
would boycott an expanded 24-team Club World Cup - also backed by
Infantino - which is planned to take place in June and July 2021,
replacing the Confederations Cup tournament.
An announcement of
the final decision had not been expected until next month's FIFA
Congress to be held in Paris ahead of the women's World Cup that takes
place in France between June 7 and July 7.
FIFA said it had examined the possibility of Qatar hosting a 48-team
tournament on its own, but a study "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 has dropped the plan to expand the 2022 tournament despite
recommending in March that the number of teams should be raised to 48
for that tournament, ahead of the 2026 World Cup in the United States,
Canada and Mexico.
Expanding the competition for the 2022 tournament was always a
complicated proposition. FIFA had sounded out potential co-hosts in the
region willing to support Qatar, which is subject to an ongoing embargo
by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their allies.
Qatar's Supreme Committee, charged with the organisation of the
tournament, said in reaction to FIFA's decision that "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."
"With just three and a half years to go until kick off, Qatar remains
as committed as ever to ensuring the 32-team FIFA World Cup in 2022 is
one of the best tournaments ever and one that makes the entire Arab
world proud," the Supreme Committee said.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut all ties with Qatar in
June 2017, accusing Doha of supporting Iran and Islamist groups.
Qatar vehemently denies the charges and says Saudi Arabia and its
allies are aiming to incite government change in the emirate, the
world's largest exporter of liquified natural gas.
Gulf states Kuwait and Oman have not taken sides in the crisis. However, Oman said in April it was "not ready" to host matches.