Qatar has not held talks with any other countries to share football matches at the 2022 World Cup, a senior tournament organiser in Doha said on Wednesday.
Despite coming under pressure from FIFA president Gianni Infantino to expand the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams – which could mean some matches being played elsewhere in the Middle East — Nasser al-Khater said no such negotiations had taken place.
“We haven’t had any discussions of sharing,” said the assistant secretary general of Qatar’s World Cup organising body, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy.
Governing body FIFA is currently carrying out a feasibility study to see if the first World Cup in the region could be expanded.
Infantino has said that if any tournament enlargement is agreed, it would likely mean matches being played in neighbouring countries, as it would increase the total number of tournament games from 64 to 80.
He has even suggested that could help Middle East peace, at a time when Qatar is at the centre of the worst Gulf diplomatic crisis in years.
For the past 18 months Doha has been isolated by countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, states which could potentially benefit from any World Cup expansion, in a bitter regional power struggle.
Qatar is accused by its rivals of supporting terrorism and being too close to Iran, charges which it refutes.
Khater said that whatever FIFA decides, any changes would have to be agreed by Qatar.
“There will be nothing that is forced upon anybody,” he said.
“It’s a feasibility study, then a consultation process. And based on the feasibility study and based on the discussions an agreement will be made. There will be nothing that will be decided unilaterally.”
The country is being transformed in readiness for the World Cup and is spending some $500 million each week on major infrastructure projects for football’s biggest tournament.
© Agence France-Presse (additional edits from Chris Kelleher)