Qatar wants talks with FIFA to "discuss the feasibility" of increasing the 2022 World Cup to 48 teams after football's governing body "expressed interest in enlarging a tournament already having to overcome operational challenges," according to Rob Harris of the AP. The Gulf nation took two days to "publicly respond to calls on Thursday from South American football nations to fast-track the jump" from 32 to 48 teams at World Cups by four years. Qatar's infrastructure, which is being "rapidly developed to cope" with the World Cup, will "already be stretched" by the requirements of staging the Middle East's first World Cup. Enlarging the tournament "would see the number of games rise" from 64 to 80. The desert nation has "only eight stadiums planned for the event and expanding the tournament might work only if the additional games are shared in the region." The tournament is already due to operate on a "tight" 28-day schedule to minimize the disruption caused to the European season. Kuwait, which retains ties with Qatar, would be a "possible option to take on the burden of additional World Cup matches" (AP, 4/14). In London, Anthony Harwood wrote last week the Gulf state was "proudly announcing" that 90% of the tournament's infrastructure, including eight stadiums, would be in place by '19. Suddenly, it is "being asked: four more stadiums, please." The "likelihood is that this is beyond the reach of Qatar, even with its vast wealth." There has "already been talk of Iran being used as some kind of accommodation overspill." But apart from a "logistical nightmare," what "would it mean politically if Qatar was forced to share its hosting of the tournament with a country like Kuwait?" In short, "huge loss of face for Qatar and a big victory for its enemies" (INDEPENDENT, 4/15).
CLUB WORLD CUP: REUTERS' Brian Homewood reported FIFA has proposed that a revamped and enlarged version of the Club World Cup, planned to start in '21, "would include all European champions, runners-up and Europa League winners from the four seasons up to and including the year of the event." The new tournament would be held every four years instead of annually, "would feature 31 matches and would need to generate" between $650M and $1B in revenue to be commercially viable, according to proposals put forward in a FIFA document. Aside from the European teams, there would be four or five from South America, none or one from Oceania and two each from Asia, CONCACAF and Africa. They would be "divided into eight groups of three with the group winners progressing to the knockout stage" (REUTERS, 4/13).