Fifa drops plans to expand 2022 Qatar World Cup to 48 teams

World football's governing body said 'under the current circumstances, such a proposal could not be made'

File photo dated 13-07-2014 of A Germany player lifts the FIFA World Cup Trophy PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday May 22, 2019. The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will take place with 32 teams, FIFA has announced. See PA story SOCCER FIFA. Photo credit should read Mike Egerton/PA Wire.
Powered by automated translation

Fifa president Gianni Infantino was dealt a blow on Wednesday when world football's governing body shelved a proposed expansion of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams.

Fifa dumped the plans "following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process", which led to the conclusion that "under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now".

The tournament "will therefore remain as originally planned with 32 teams and no proposal will be submitted at the next Fifa Congress on June 5", the association said.

The expansion was a pet project of Infantino, who pushed the idea despite the probable need for an end to the boycott of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain to help host the tournament.

A feasibility study submitted to March's Fifa Congress claimed that a Qatar World Cup with 48 teams would generate "between $300 million (Dh1.1 billion) and $400m of additional income".

Fifa was counting on an additional $120m in TV rights, $150m in marketing rights and $90m from ticket sales.

Europe's top football clubs said in March that they would boycott an expanded 24-team Club World Cup, also backed by Infantino, which is planned to take place between June 17 and July 4, 2021, replacing the Confederations Cup tournament.

An announcement of the final decision had not been expected until next month's congress, which is being held in Paris ahead of the Women's World Cup in France between June 7 and July 7.

Fifa said the study "concluded that 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".

Fifa has dropped the idea despite recommending in March that the number of teams should be raised to 48 for 2022, ahead of the planned 2026 World Cup in the US, Canada and Mexico.

Last week Hassan Al Thawadi, the secretary general of Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, said that a feasibility study carried out by Fifa and Qatar would favour "expansion to other countries".

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain severed diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar in June 2017 over its support for extremists and Iran.