Sure as day follows night, FIFA are at it again.
Today, the Associated Press revealed that a FIFA feasibility study had endorsed the possibility of expanding the 2022 Qatar World Cup to 48 teams with the help of a neighbouring country—most likely Oman or Kuwait.
More detail from FIFA’s feasibility report into 2022 World Cup expansion: Gulf countries would have to lift boycotts of Qatar before being eligible to join hosting of the World Cup.— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) March 12, 2019
FIFA says this “should be evidenced as a precondition”https://t.co/uHE5MfA6JQ
The report also addressed the risk of legal action from losing bidders (Australia, Japan, South Korea, USA) concluding that it was unlikely. Lucky them Why is the addition of 16 extra teams worth the hassle then? FIFA found that a last-minute expansion has the potential to generate an extra $400 million.
With all the hurdles FIFA would have to jump to secure the initiative, it’s clear that revenue—surprisingly!!—might be a key motivation here. For starters, Qatar’s already buckling under the pressure of providing eight stadiums for the tournament and FIFA would need to find two more from somewhere. And the Qatari diplomatic crisis makes finding a neighbour to help out there a little bit complicated. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE all severed diplomatic ties in 2017, meaning there aren’t even flights between the countries. That leaves Oman and Kuwait as the main options—they only have one stadium between them that meets the requirements of the 2026 tournament.
Heinous that FIFA are still considering a 48-team tournament in 2022. Sure, there may be other countries involved, but it is also likely to increase the struggle so many have already faced in Qatar. https://t.co/ETLi3UmoEa— Karan Tejwani (@karan_tejwani26) March 12, 2019
The study also concluded that despite adding sixteen games, the tournament could still retain its 28-day schedule. Suddenly we’re looking at six games a day during the group stages and marriages all over the world ending that winter. More worryingly, with less time for players rest to between games, there’s the likelihood of an increase in injuries and a reduction in the quality of the football on show.
There’s also the possibility of legal action, too. Losing bidders from 2010 could feel aggrieved that their case to host the tournament would have been strengthened by the need to provide extra stadiums. However, FIFA’s report stated that the risk of this was low citing that “the process did not exclude joint bids and the possibility of co-hosting was an option for all bidders from the outset”.
Despite these issues, FIFA seem keen on pushing the expansion through. Can’t for the life of me think why. The FIFA Council is meeting in Miami on Friday where the plan can be agreed in principle, before an official decision in June. Moreover, FIFA President Infantino already expressed a strong interest in bringing the expansion forward from 2026 to 2022.
Am not liking this idea of expanding the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams at all!!!......— Dan Wight (@danswight) February 7, 2019
I mean just imagine how much it'll cost to complete the Panini 2022 World Cup sticker album!! 🙄🙄😂#Panini #Qatar2022 https://t.co/UygzuBAw81
Making the 2022 World Cup 50% bigger, nine years after it was awarded would be a shock even by FIFA’s standards, but the extra revenue does at least rationalise it. The report estimates that the unsold TV rights would be worth $121.8 million. Nevertheless, the feeling that Qatar 2022 is more of a financial exercise than a celebration of football is growing stronger and stronger...
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