Qatar would not be forced to share games with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates unless those countries restore diplomatic and travel ties with the country.
According to an 81-page feasibility study, FIFA’s ruling council is in favor of supporting an expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams despite the logistical and political complexities.
Bloomberg highlights that Qatar would not be forced to share games with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates unless those countries restore diplomatic and travel ties with the country. Due to their neutrality, Kuwait and Oman are the most viable options to help take on an extra 16 teams.
If FIFA were to pass the plans, the 2022 tournament will be the first 48-country World Cup. It will also need Qatar’s approval before opening out the bid to other Arab nations.
FIFA has said that any alteration to the tournament plans “shall be agreed together with Qatar as the appointed host nation, and any new proposals must be prepared jointly between FIFA and Qatar.”
“Due to the geopolitical situation in the region and the recent blockade that Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE have imposed on Qatar, the involvement of such countries in organizing a co-hosted tournament with Qatar would require the lifting of such blockade, in particular the lifting of all restrictions relating to the movement of people and goods between these countries,” the FIFA feasibility study said. “Ideally, this should be evidenced as a precondition to the appointment of such co-hosts and should cover all aspects related to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.”
Kuwait and Oman are more feasible co-hosts than other Arab nations because they are not part of the boycott.
“Candidate co-hosts would need to be regarded as sufficiently cooperative,” the FIFA study adds. “Such co-hosts would not sanction or boycott economically or otherwise any other potential co-host country.”
Reports suggest that the council will be asked to allow FIFA and Qatar to jointly submit a proposal on using “one or more additional co-host countries” and that the congress of member associations has the final say on expansion in June.
The FIFA Congress has already agreed to expand to a 48-team tournament for the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada. The same format is proposed for 2022, starting with a group stage consisting of 16 groups of three teams, followed by a round of 32. This kind of play would ensure a team could only play a maximum of seven matches at the tournament — like in the 32-team format.