- FIFA and Qatar agree to skip 48 World Cup format
- Geopolitical and logistics concern cited
- 32 countries will attend the ’22 event
’22 World Cup to Remain a 32-Team Event
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has failed to convince the world’s soccer governing body to expand the upcoming 2022 World Cup to 48 teams. Infantino has long been a proponent of bringing more participants to the event, but the short notice and geopolitical tensions in the Middle East, has made it impossible for Qatar to host the event without the help of its estranged neighbors.
Originally, Infantino wanted the host country to collaborate with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, but the countries broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar in June 2017, sealing off its land borders. Citing these concerns, FIFA decided against increasing the number of participants for the next World Cup:
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.
While the blockade of land borders lasts, none of Qatar’s neighbors would be able to help host part of the event and Qatar itself lacks the venues and capacity to build everything on time for the event. Qatar win the bid in 2010 and it was then caught in a corruption scandal involving the bidding process.
FIFA was affected by a mass graft scandal in 2015 when the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) unearthed a “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption within FIFA and UEFA, leading to the arrest of seven executives in a luxury hotel in Zurich.
Qatar’s supreme committee also welcomed the decision of FIFA, citing the same concerns in regards to the advanced stages of preparation and lacking technical capacity to prepare enough facilities that could host 48 teams. The committee reaffirmed the country’s readiness to host the event for the 32 teams qualifying for the 2022 World Cup:
“With just three and a half years to go until kick off, Qatar remains as committed as ever to ensuring the 32-team World Cup in 2022 is one of the best tournaments ever and one that makes the entire Arab world proud.”
With the geopolitical uncertainties in the region due to Iran-US relations, Infantino’s dream of healing the Middle East will have to wait. Qatar has invested billions to ensure that it is fully-prepared to play a proper host to the event.