The statement read: “FIFA and Qatar have jointly explored all possibilities to increase the number of participant teams from 32 to 48 teams by involving neighbouring countries. Following a thorough and comprehensive consultation process… it was concluded that under the current circumstances such a proposal could not be made now.”
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It added that there was also not enough time for Qatar itself to assess the potential impact of hosting an expanded tournament.
The Qatar 2022 World Cup bid team broke FIFA rules by running a secret campaign to sabotage their rivals for the tournament, The Sunday Times has claimed.
The newspaper says it has been passed documents by a whistleblower who worked with the Qatar bid.
It says the bid team used a PR agency and former CIA operatives to disseminate fake propaganda about its main competitors, the United States and Australia.
This allegedly involved recruiting prominent figures to criticise the bids in their own countries, thus giving the impression they lacked support at home.
FIFA rules say that bidders must “refrain from making any written or oral statements of any kind, whether adverse or otherwise, about the bids or candidatures of any other member association which has expressed an interest in hosting and staging the competitions”.
Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said it “rejected” all the claims made by the paper.
According to The Sunday Times, the alleged smear campaign included paying a professor 9,000 dollars (£6,900) to write a damning report on the economic cost of a US World Cup, recruiting journalists and bloggers to promote negative stories in the US, Australian and international media, and organising grassroots protests at rugby matches in Australia.
The leaked documents also revealed that a group of American PE teachers had been recruited to ask congressmen to oppose a US World Cup on the grounds the money would be better spent on high school sports, the paper claimed.
Lord Triesman, former chairman of the Football Association and England bid chairman, urged FIFA to “look at the evidence thoroughly”, and said Qatar should not be allowed to “hold on to the World Cup” if they were shown to have broken FIFA rules.
He told the paper: “I think it would not be wrong for FIFA to reconsider England in those circumstances … We have the capabilities.”
The Qatar bid team has previously been accused of corruption, but was cleared following a two-year inquiry by the FIFA ethics committee.
In a statement, Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said: “The Supreme Committee rejects each and every allegation put forward by the Sunday Times.
“We have been thoroughly investigated and have been forthcoming with all information related to our bid, including the official investigation led by US attorney Michael Garcia.
“We have strictly adhered to all FIFA’s rules and regulations for the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process.”
FIFA said an investigation into the circumstances of the bid had already been carried out and no wrongdoing was found.
A FIFA spokesperson said: “Concerning the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process, a thorough investigation was conducted by Michael Garcia and his conclusions are available in the report, which has been published on FIFA.com.”
“Generally speaking, complaints regarding potential breaches of the FIFA Code of Ethics may be filed via FIFA’s confidential reporting mechanism.”
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FIFA president Gianni Infantino has confirmed the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will take place during the winter.
The governing body took the decision to move the tournament to the more cooler months with a November 21 start date.
The final is due to happen on December 18, which is also Qatar National Day.
It will therefore fall in the middle of the domestic schedule for the majority of European club sides.
However, the tournament will be played over a reduced time period of 28 days in an attempt to counteract this.
Meanwhile, Infantino declared the 2018 tournament as the best World Cup ever and thanked Russia for being the perfect host.
Speaking at the traditional tournament overview media conference, he said: “For a couple of years I have been saying this will be the best World Cup ever and today I can say that with conviction – it is the best World Cup ever.
“I would like to thank everyone. The main actors are on the pitch – the players, referees and coaches – but, of course, there are also all those who have worked to make sure everything has worked smoothly, the Russians.
“A big thank you to the Russian government and the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the local organising committee, the Russian Football Union, the volunteers, the heart and smile of the World Cup, all those people, more than 100,000, who helped in one capacity or another.”
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