Hassan Al Thawadi: Any potential 2022 World Cup co-host has to mirror Qatar's values

Hassan Al ThawadiGetty Images

FIFA and Qatar have to come to a common agreement while overcoming several obstacles in terms of finding a potential co-host, if the 2022 World Cup is to be expanded to include 48 teams, says Hassan Al Thawadi, Chairman of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

In April 2018, FIFA had received a proposal to carry out a feasibility study into increasing the number of teams for the 2022 FIFA World Cup from 32 to 48.

This matter was discussed at length in the FIFA Council meeting in June 2018 and it was decided that FIFA would work with host country Qatar in order to come up with a report. 

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The key findings state that Qatar cannot host a 48-team World Cup. It has to, alongwith FIFA, suggest a country’s name for co-host from five potential countries – UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman. However, three are out of the equation due to the geo-political situation. UAE, Saudi and Bahrain have imposed an economic blockade on Qatar and unless the blockade is lifted, these three countries are out of the equation.

Qatar, as the appointed host and main host in any co-hosted tournament, would have to jointly propose with FIFA such potential additional co-host countries to the FIFA Congress. 

Qatar recently unveiled its second venue for the World Cup, the Al Janoub Stadium to a grand reception. They have already readied 41 FIFA-approved training sites for the World Cup.

What is certain is that both FIFA and Qatar have to come to an agreement regarding the key findings from the report. It won't be a one-sided deliberation and a conclusion is expected to be drawn soon, at the FIFA Annual Congress in Paris on June 5, 2019.

"To start off with, we are currently in the process of studying (feasibility report). The feasibility studying was in the first stage. The second stage, which is a joint assessment now between us and FIFA on the feasibility of co-hosting and the feasibility of expanding the tournament. This is still in discussions right now. We will be reaching a conclusion and making an announcement during the Paris Congress," Hassan Al Thawadi told Goal in an exclusive interview.

"As I said, it is not in our court or anybody else's court. First and foremost it is a conditional assessment. Ultimately, of course, there are no doubts that we and FIFA have to agree on the way forward. We are still in the process of finalizing the second stage of the feasibility study and we will have a conclusion to be announced during the Paris Congress," he added.

Zaha Haddid Al Janoub Stadium Qatar World Cup 2022

Keeping aside the fact that Qatar has put in a lot of effort in the development of infrastructure with the global event in mind, it will not be easy for Qatar to find a suitable co-host in a short span of time. Even if you do not consider the technological advancements Qatar has implemented in their venues, Kuwait and Oman have just one stadium between them that has a capacity of more than 40000 seats which is one of FIFA's requirements.

Also, it is not just about the stadiums but getting the country to conform to Qatar's tagline of ‘Deliver Amazing’ and also adhere to the human rights reforms – something which Qatar has undertaken since they won the bid in 2010. 

Whether it would be feasible for Qatar to find a partner with respect to not just the infrastructure but also the workers' welfare and other reforms that Qatar has implemented remains to be seen. It is tough for any potential co-host to get the backing of International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Trade Union Confederation(ITUC) apart from Global Initiatives for Human Rights Watch like Qatar has received in such a short time.

"Well, that is a part of the conditions that we have to look into. The World Cup has served as a positive catalyst for positive change within the state of Qatar. As you can see now, a lot of the infrastructure has been built. Although it was planned for before, it was accelerated as a result of the World Cup. And today, you can see the progress on the ground for yourself," he said.

"On the social and legislative level, especially when it came to a number of other initiatives, most notably the workers' welfare, the World Cup has served as a positive catalyst and today, I am proud to say we serve as a benchmark, at least within the region. And the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), in certain areas, have even served as a benchmark globally on labour reforms. So very proud of that, what the World Cup has served.

"And accordingly we look, if, and again, it is a very big if, a possibility of co-host nation comes out, one of the conditions will be no doubt, not only in its technical ability to be able to deliver the World Cup but more importantly, in understanding, realizing and extracting the values that this tournament has. And that is a fundamental condition as well. But again this will come out hopefully in our meetings in Paris," Hassan added.