FIFA’S NEW STUDY (SOMEHOW) FINDS THE QATAR 2022 WORLD CUP A GOOD IDEA FIFA’S NEW STUDY (SOMEHOW) FINDS THE QATAR 2022 WORLD CUP A GOOD IDEA

FIFA’S NEW STUDY (SOMEHOW) FINDS THE QATAR 2022 WORLD CUP A GOOD IDEA

FIFA’S NEW STUDY (SOMEHOW) FINDS THE QATAR 2022 WORLD CUP A GOOD IDEA FIFA’S NEW STUDY (SOMEHOW) FINDS THE QATAR 2022 WORLD CUP A GOOD IDEA

Words: Phil Webster 
Image: Offside Sports Photography

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.

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.

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.

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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