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FIFA u-turn as Qatar World Cup will not be expanded from 32 to 48 teams

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FIFA make u-turn on plans for expanded 48 team World Cup

Back in 2010 FIFA made the decision to award the World Cup, the biggest competition in football, to Qatar. They've never qualified for the tournament before and in hosting it they would become the first Arab nation to do so, so it was huge news.

But what's followed is controversy after controversy, ranging from human rights issues, climate concerns, transportation, cultural and political issues & now more news has surfaced about the actual format of the competition.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has already had to be moved from it's usual summer date (June - July) to November - December which is going to severely disrupt club football in pretty much every nation, but now FIFA have had to do a u-turn on how many sides will actually be able to qualify.

Plans were initially launched for the tournament to be the first in history to host 48 nations, with FIFA president Gianni Infantino keen to spread matches across the Middle East to make the event even more of a showpiece.

Gianni Infantino FIFA
Gianni Infantino has called for a "more inclusive" World Cup, but Qatar simply cannot deliver that

Qatar barely has the infrastructure to host a 32 team tournament, let alone 48 so getting some co-hosts was crucial for these plans to suffice. But the deep political and economic divides in the Middle East simply make this not feasible, so there's more embarrassment and controversy heading FIFA's way.

The games governing body released a statement: "FIFA and Qatar have jointly explored all possibilities to increase the number of participant teams from 32 to 48 teams by involving neighbouring countries. Following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process, it was concluded that under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now."

Qatar will remain the sole host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup

Their statement was worded well, but essentially this is Qatar not wanting to share the rights of hosting the biggest tournament in world football with anyone else.

They worked hard (and paid off a lot of potential voters) to win the rights for the 2022 World Cup and they're going to become the first Arab nation to host the tournament, so organisers will be relieved that Qatar will be the sole destination.

It's believed that Qatar made it clear from day one that they wanted to keep the current format of the competition, with 32 different nations. Infantino pushed for an expansion against their wishes but the Qatar's severed relations with neighbouring countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain made this a no-go.

A statement from the Qatari World Cup organisers read: "Qatar had always been open to the idea of an expanded tournament in 2022 had a viable operating model been found and had all parties concluded that an expanded 48-team edition was in the best interest of football and Qatar as the host nation.

"With just three and a half years to go until kick off, Qatar remains as committed as ever to ensuring the 32-team Fifa World Cup in 2022 is one of the best tournaments ever and one that makes the entire Arab world proud."

Expanding the World Cup to 48 teams has been one of Infantino's main ambitions since replacing Sepp Blatter as FIFA president and it looks like he's going to have to wait until 2026 for it to come to fruition - when Canada, USA and Mexico host the competition. They have the stadiums & infrastructure to pull it off and make Qatar's bid look laughable, which again begs the question how did they manage to get it in the first place and more so, retain it?

The latest in a long line of controversies

The awarding of this World Cup has grabbed headlines like no other and it does seem quite bizarre that it's still going to be there. In order to win the rights to a tournament of this magnitude you need to have stadiums, transportation, infrastructure and the facilities & culture to be able warmly welcome a variety of people of different backgrounds and nations.

Qatar doesn't appear to tick many (if any) of these boxes. It's no secret that the organisers and their incredibly deep pockets had a say in the voting for this competition and it's completely barbaric that it's actually going to happen.

They're having to build every venue (barring the Khalifa International Stadium) from scratch and it's resulted in several deaths on site. Qatar may be one of the richest nations on the planet but the some of the workers are reported to be on just 82p an hour or £40 a week - this is despite working in horrendous, unsafe conditions. This has deeply upset fans, families, other nations and human rights activists who've called for FIFA to strip Qatar of the World Cup - which looks like it'll never happen.

Khalifa International Stadium Qatar
The Khalifa International Stadium (Doha) is currently the only stadium that's been built for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with all the rest being made especially for the competition

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is due to run from 21st November - 18th December which means all European league will be disrupted, along with several others around the planet. There's also concerns for LGBT fans planning on heading over to the Middle East too, with homosexuality illegal in Qatar. Again, how on earth did FIFA think awarding this nation the World Cup was a good idea?

We could spend all day rambling on about what a ridiculous situation this is and hopefully we will see some change in the build up to the competition to make this much more fan friendly, along with enhancing safety, salaries and security for those involved in building it.

Russia 2018 came under a lot of criticism pre-tournament and we all saw what a massive success that was, but the negative headlines and controversy to come out of Qatar is on another level and we're struggling to see it performing to the level of last years event.

FIFA have a massive responsibility on their hands to get this right and it's vital that they do, as trust in the games governing body remains a low as ever...