Attempts to expand the number of teams competing in the FIFA 2022 World Cup football tournament from 32 to 48 teams have failed. An announcement from FIFA on Wednesday said that:“Following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process with the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders, it was concluded that under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now.”
FIFA President Gianni Infantino had been spearheading efforts to expand the number of teams participating in the 2022 World Cup matches scheduled to be hosted by Qatar. However, the decision announced on Wednesday, two weeks ahead of the FIFA congress slated for 5 June, means that no expansion proposal will now be tabled at the congress.
The expansion plan was based on sharing matches with neighboring Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. But after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain broke off relations with Qatar in June 2017, and Oman declined the opportunity, the only remaining potential venue was Kuwait. A team from FIFA headed by Infantino that had visited Kuwait to evaluate the possibilities of holding part of the matches in Kuwait had concluded that the country did not have the required facilities nor the time to upgrade existing venues.
Since it won the bid in 2010, Qatar has been spending billions of dollars in building seven new modern stadiums and expanding its main Khalifa International Stadium, as well as spending billions on metros, roads and other infrastructure.
In a statement, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for delivery and legacy of the 2022 World Cup, said: “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. A joint analysis, in this respect, concluded that due to the advanced stage of preparations and the need for a detailed assessment of the potential logistical impact on Qatar, more time would be required and a decision could not be taken before the deadline of June. It was, therefore, decided not to further pursue this option.”