By Andrew Warshaw
May 21 – Qatar’s 2022 World Cup organising chief has confirmed that a decision will definitely be made one way or the other at the upcoming FIFA Congress over possible expansion to 48 teams – but won’t say which way it will go.
A feasibility study carried out by FIFA says Qatar can only co-host to cope with 48 teams. However, three of its neighbours are out of the question due to ongoing geo-political tensions – United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain – while Oman says it doesn’t have the facilities.
“We will be reaching a conclusion and making an announcement during the Paris Congress,” Hassan Al Thawadi (pictured), chairman of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, told Goal.com.
It is anticipated that an initial ruling with be made by the FIFA Council, meeting two days before Congress in Paris, and a recommendation will then be put forward to FIFA’s entire membership for approval.
“First and foremost it is a conditional assessment,” said al-Thawadi. “Ultimately, of course, there are no doubts that we and FIFA have to agree on the way forward. We are still in the process of finalising the second stage of the feasibility study and we will have a conclusion to be announced during the Paris Congress
“If, and again, it is a very big if, a possibility of co-host nation comes out, one of the conditions will be no doubt, not only in its technical ability, to be able to deliver the World Cup but more importantly, in understanding, realising and extracting the values that this tournament has. And that is a fundamental condition as well. But again this will come out hopefully in our meetings in Paris.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino is pushing hard for his inner sanctum to approve bringing 48 teams forward from 2026 to 2022 but Nasser Al Khater, CEO of Qatar 2022, has re-iterated that whatever happens must be a joint decision.
“No one will unilaterally take this decision,” he told journalists. “We are studying and looking at it, and want to do what’s best for football. There are a lot of positives by expanding it to 48 teams, as well as a lot of positives of keeping it at 32. The planning right now is for a 32 team World Cup.”
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