April 29 – FIFA has written to human rights groups to hold talks about issues related to a potential expansion of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams as Gianni Infantino and the governing body continue their push to find one more regional co-host for the tournament.
On Saturday FIFA Secretary-General Fatma Samoura wrote to Amnesty International and other activists on Saturday that “this process also includes an assessment of human rights risks and potential opportunities associated with a possible expansion.”
“In that respect, we look forward to the bilateral consultation calls with many of you in the coming days and weeks.”
The Zurich governing body has repeatedly approached Qatari officials about a possible expansion and insists it is working constructively with Qatar on the viability of a 48-team tournament, but the Saudi-led boycott of Doha has complicated any plans in the region. Kuwait and Oman were mooted as options as they maintain healthy relations with Doha, but the Omani have indicated they would not be ready to World Cup games.
Kuwait City’s Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium seats 60,000 fans but the Sabah Al-Salem Stadium would require serious upgrades with a capacity of just 26,000 fans. The logistics may turn out to be a far bigger stumbling block than FIFA had projected, but ultimately the final decision over expansion lies with Qatar. Infantino however is hoping to secure their approval before putting an expansion to a vote in June.
In 2010 Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup on the premise of it being a 32-team tournament. Infantino has been leading a relentless push to expand the tournament one iteration earlier than foreseen to 48 teams. The 2026 World Cup hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada will be played in the new format, but Infantino wants to secure the expansion at the upcoming FIFA congress.
At the moment Qatar is constructing eight stadiums in a radius of 48 teams and a FIFA in-house feasibility study has already determined an expansion to 48 teams and 80 games would would require two stadiums in at least one more country in the region.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1563789435labto1563789435ofdlr1563789435owedi1563789435sni@o1563789435fni1563789435