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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 March 2019

Fifa backs 48-team in 2022 World Cup but final decision in June

'We have the duty to look into it, 90 per cent are in favour of an increase but it's not as easy as that,' says president Gianni Infantino

President Gianni Infantino was pleased to announce Fifa's recommendation on topping up the 2022 World Cup. Rhona Wise / AFP
President Gianni Infantino was pleased to announce Fifa's recommendation on topping up the 2022 World Cup. Rhona Wise / AFP

Fifa moved a step closer on Friday to expanding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams and hopes to confirm the plans in June if a suitable co-host can be found.

An internal feasibility study supporting the expansion, which is being strongly pushed by president Gianni Infantino, was given full backing by the Fifa council in Miami.

A final decision will now be taken in Paris on June 6 after the world football governing body and Qatar jointly submit the names of potential co-host nations to the governing body's Congress.

Infantino, who also confirmed a new Club World Cup with 24 teams will begin in 2021 to replace the Confederations Cup, said: "You have in front of you a happy Fifa president. I am always happy but especially today because we have taken some important decisions.

"We came to conclusion, yes it's feasible to move from 32 to 48 teams at the World Cup provided certain conditions are met. We have the duty to look into it, 90 per cent are in favour of an increase but it's not as easy as that. We have to analyse matters carefully and we are working closely with Qatar."

The move away from the traditional 32 teams which will see 80 matches instead of 64 - the notion was originally slated to come into effect for the 2026 tournament in North America - means one or more other countries will be asked to help Qatar stage the shortened 28-day event which is scheduled to kick off in November 2022.

The New York Times reported a week ago that Oman and Kuwait could host some matches under Fifa plans.

Meanwhile, the Qatari organising committee for the 2022 World Cup gave a lukewarm response to Friday's decision, saying organisers would continue planning for a 32-team event.

"We will work with Fifa to determine whether or not a viable operating model does exist and importantly, whether it is in the best interests for football and for the tournament, and for Qatar as the host nation," a spokesman for Qatar 2022 said.

"Until we reach that conclusion, we will continue to work toward hosting a 32-team World Cup."

Real Madrid are the defending Club World Cup champions having won it in Abu Dhabui last year. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo
Real Madrid are the defending Club World Cup champions having won it in Abu Dhabui last year. Hassan Ammar / AP Photo

Backlash against Club World Cup

Fifa has been told that the leading European clubs will boycott a Club World Cup expanded to 24 teams in 2021 which was also given the go-ahead at the meeting in Florida.

A 17-page report distributed to the 37 members of Fifa's ruling body calls for the new tournament to take place between June 17 and July 4 2021, replacing the Confederations Cup international tournament.

Infantino called the decision to move ahead with the plans an "important milestone for world football" and expects no problems moving forward. "We should enjoy what is coming," he said.

But the European Club Association (ECA) said leading European clubs would boycott the event.

"ECA clubs will not participate in the Club World Cup in 2021 and will assess participation in the Club World Cup in 2024," an ECA spokesman told AFP.

Uefa also confirmed Europe had voted against the new tournament at Friday's meeting.

There was also confirmation from Fifa that the video assistant referee system (VAR) will be used at the women's World Cup this summer.

Updated: March 16, 2019 09:51 AM

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