FIFA: Gulf states must restore ties with Qatar to host World Cup games

Construction continues for the Ras Abu Aboud stadium, one of the venues for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in this October 31, 2018 file photo. Two to four additional venues are required from one or two nations in the region for the planned expansion of the football tournament. (AP)
Updated 12 March 2019

FIFA: Gulf states must restore ties with Qatar to host World Cup games

  • Because of their neutrality in the situation, Kuwait and Oman are the most viable options identified by FIFA to host games in 2022
  • Making the 2022 tournament the first 48-country World Cup, at this late stage, would require Qatar to accept giving up exclusivity on hosting the event

LONDON: Arabian Gulf countries would have to lift boycotts of Qatar before being eligible to join hosting of the World Cup, FIFA determined in a feasibility study recommending its ruling council endorse expansion of the 2022 tournament to 48 teams despite the logistical and political complexities.
Because of their neutrality in the situation, Kuwait and Oman are the most viable options identified by FIFA to host games in ‘22. Venues in at least one more country would be required to cope with the additional 16 teams and 16 games under the expansion proposal.
The feasibility report was prepared for FIFA’s ruling council to consider ahead of a meeting in Miami on Friday, when the leadership will seek approval to press ahead with finalizing plans for adding another 16 teams.
Making the 2022 tournament the first 48-country World Cup, at this late stage, would require Qatar to accept giving up exclusivity on hosting the event more than eight years after its winning bid.
But to protect itself legally, FIFA says 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.”
With logistics already challenged by the existing plan to play 64 games in eight stadiums within a 30-mile radius in Qatar, FIFA said two to four additional venues are required in the region in “one or more” nation.
“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.”
“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.”
A document sent to the FIFA Council says its members will be asked if they agree with the report’s conclusion that World Cup expansion is “feasible provided that neighboring countries host some matches.” FIFA emphasizes that would still keep Qatar as the main host.
The council will also 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.
That would come almost nine years after the vote that Qatar’s unexpected vote success. That bidding process has been subject to corruption investigations which questioned Qatar’s conduct in lobbying voters but concluded there was no misconduct.
Qatar has also been forced to raise standards of working conditions and improve labor rights protections after significant outside scrutiny. Any additional host nation in 2022 would have to provide guarantees on human rights requirements, the FIFA study says.
The World Cup already has been shifted from its usual June-July slot because of Qatar’s searing summer heat, despite resistance from European leagues whose season will be disrupted.
Spreading hosting beyond Qatar would also change the nature of what has been promoted as a compact World Cup that doesn’t require fans to take flights between matches.
The FIFA study found that the enlarged tournament could still be played in a 28-day window from Nov. 21-Dec. 18. FIFA said there would be “no major concessions to the sporting quality of the tournament” with expansion. While there was a maximum of four matches per day in the closing stages of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, FIFA said the 2022 tournament could feature six separate kickoff slots in the earlier stage to cope with the additional teams.
The FIFA Congress has already agreed to expand to a 48-team tournament from the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada. The same format is proposed, starting with a group stage consisting of 16 groups of three teams, followed by a round of 32. That would ensure a team could only play a maximum of seven matches at the tournament — like in the 32-team format.
The study also breaks down how FIFA can earn an additional $400 million by adding more games. FIFA said while it cannot rule out legal action from losing bidders by changing the format, the study said it “concluded that the risk was low.”


Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

Updated 11 December 2019

Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

  • Lasitskene, a three-time world champion, has in the past been critical of Russia’s athletics federation

MOSCOW: Russian high jump world champion Maria Lasitskene on Tuesday accused her country’s own sports authorities of failing to protect athletes from the deepening doping crisis, in a rare public broadside at top officials.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Monday handed Russia a new, this time four-year, ban from top global sporting events, including the next summer and winter Olympics and the 2022 soccer World Cup, for tampering with laboratory data.

The ruling means Russian athletes cleared to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will do so under a neutral flag. But Lasitskene and some other Russian track and field athletes face additional obstacles to being cleared for competition.

“I’ve already missed one Olympics and one-and-a-half years of international competition,” Lasitskene wrote in an open letter addressed to Russia’s sports authorities.

“And it seems that’s not the end of it. So who ultimately is to blame? Who’s going to give me back what I’ve lost?” she wrote in the letter published on Russian sports media outlet Championat.Com.

Lasitskene, a three-time world champion, has in the past been critical of Russia’s athletics federation, which has been suspended for doping since 2015, and has been one of the few Russian athletes to voice her anger publicly.

World Athletics, the global body governing athletics, last month halted the reinstatement procedures for Russia’s athletics federation after its president and six others were provisionally suspended for serious breaches of anti-doping rules.

As a result of these fresh sanctions, World Athletics also said it was reviewing the process it has used in the past to clear some Russians, including Lasitskene, to compete internationally as neutrals.

“Why have we arrived at a situation when an athlete is supposed to be delighted about getting neutral status?” Lasitskene wrote.

“Was the Sports Ministry and Russian Olympic Committee really happy with the Russian athletics federation’s work?”

The president of Russia’s Olympic Committee, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, on Monday dismissed the sanctions against Russia as inappropriate and excessive.