The Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) has abandoned plans to expand the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams.
The world football governing body announced its decision in a statement issued on Wednesday.
FIFA said that after what it described as a “comprehensive consultation process”, it agreed with Qatar that the global showpiece football event could not be expanded due to present circumstances.
It also noted that logistical and political complexities hovering currently around the Gulf could hamper Qatar’s ability to stage a successful event if the World Cup was to be expanded.
The statement read: “In line with the conclusions of the feasibility study approved by the FIFA Council at its last meeting, FIFA and Qatar have jointly explored all possibilities to increase the number of participant teams from 32 to 48 teams by involving neighbouring countries at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,”
“Following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process with the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders, it was concluded that under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now.
“Additionally, FIFA and Qatar have once again explored the feasibility of Qatar hosting a 48-team tournament by in particular lowering certain key FIFA requirements. A joint analysis, in this respect, 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. It was therefore decided not to further pursue this option.
“The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will, therefore, remain as originally planned with 32 teams and no proposal will be submitted at the next FIFA Congress on 5 June.”
FIFA had been exploring if logistical and political complexities could be overcome to expand the tournament from 32 to 48 teams, which would have required at least one more country being used in the Persian Gulf to accommodate an additional 16 matches in the region.
A FIFA internal report had already concluded that the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia could not join as co-hosts unless they restore the economic and travel ties with Qatar that were severed two years ago.