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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 August 2018

England ready to take Qatar’s place for 2022 World Cup

Senior officials said that the country could step in if the Gulf state was punished for regulation breaches

Football can come home if Qatar is stripped of the 2022 World Cup, England officials say. Action Images via Reuters
Football can come home if Qatar is stripped of the 2022 World Cup, England officials say. Action Images via Reuters

With stadiums already built to host some of the world’s biggest teams, England has the sporting infrastructure to take the place of Qatar in the event of the Gulf state being stripped of hosting rights for the 2022 tournament, officials claimed on Monday.

“We have the capabilities” to host the tournament, said Lord Triesman, the former chairman of the unsuccessful English bid for the 2018 tournament.

Senior football officials said there was still enough time to move the tournament to one of the “more mature” footballing countries such as England, where hotels, transport and media links were already largely in place to deal with such a change, and hold a successful tournament.

Read more: Qatar ran ‘black ops’ campaign to win World Cup

“Absolutely they could switch this,” Mark Palios, the former Football Association chief executive, told the BBC. England has the stadiums and “they could organise themselves within that timeframe”.

The sticking point would be Fifa ensuring it was legally bulletproof from any Qatari legal challenge if it lost the multi-billion-pound tournament and the international prestige that went with it. They would likely require an extended investigation into the weekend’s claims. “Practically, they are out of time on this,” said Mr Palios.

The move would also require a radical shift from Fifa officials, whose immediate reaction to the revelations of dirty tricks Qatar-linked agencies in the Sunday Times was to insist that a full investigation had already been carried out into claims of wrong-doing surrounding the 2018 and 2022 bidding process.

The newspaper printed emails that appeared to show that a public relations company working on behalf of Qatar was involved in a ‘black ops’ campaign to run down its rivals from the United States and Australia. The US was in June awarded the rights to host the first 48-team tournament in 2022 along with Mexico and Canada.

Read more: Qatar World Cup PR executive worked for Syria's Al Assad

In its unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 tournament, the England committee highlighted the seven grounds already built and were ready for the tournament without further renovations needed, such as the stadium that hosts Premier League champions Manchester City, and Arsenal’s Emirates ground in north London.

Since the decision to give the tournament to Qatar in 2010, the stadium that hosted the 2012 Olympics has been retooled to host Premier League football for West Ham United. Tottenham Hotspur – which left its traditional home to play at the national stadium Wembley – has also since returned to a larger ground for the upcoming Premier League season.

Those stadiums – even without the eight others then proposed for renovation or rebuilding - would provide more venues than the eight currently offered by Qatar for the 32-team World Cup. Fifa’s own evaluation report highlighted England’s experience in hosting large-scale international sports events including the 2012 Olympics and the 2015 rugby World Cup. It also cited England as the leading football sponsorship market in the world.

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Bonita Mersiades, who was part of the Australian bidding team, said that time was running out for Fifa to change the venue, but said that one sanction could be to force the expansion of the 2018 tournament to 48 teams and insist that matches had to be played across the Middle East.

Whatever the outcome, she said that an independent inquiry was required to return “trust and credibility” to Fifa after a slew of corruption scandals.

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