Football’s global governing body FIFA has abandoned plans to expand the 2022 Qatar World Cup to 48 nations, deciding to stick with 32 countries because of the political and logistical complexities of using another Gulf nation.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s hopes of expanding the Middle East’s first World Cup in the region were stymied by the regional diplomatic crisis and the body’s demands on host nations to adhere to its human and labour rights requirements.
That means the World Cup will not be expanded until 2026, with FIFA already having approved a format with 48 teams for that tournament in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
A meeting of the FIFA Council in March authorised Infantino to work with Qatar on seeing if it was feasible to use at least one more country in the region to accommodate 16 more matches and present a proposal at meetings in June.
FIFA said in a statement on Wednesday:
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.’
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. It was, therefore, decided not to further pursue this option.’
While Qatar won a vote in 2010 on the basis of staging a June-July World Cup, FIFA shifted the tournament from its usual slot because of the fierce summer heat to November 21-December 18, 2022.
The 2022 World Cup organising committee said in a statement:
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.’