Ahead Of Qatar World Cup, A Gulf Feud Plays Out In The Shadows
Collins was quoted in the article, however, urging FIFA to investigate the accusations and to strip Qatar of the World Cup if they were true. “The ultimate sanction for breaking the rules,” Collins said, “would be the loss of the right to host the tournament.”
A World Cup Under Siege
Despite years of negative publicity, Qatar has managed to withstand every challenge to its hosting the World Cup. Construction continues on the eight stadiums it plans to use for the tournament; one has been completed and two more, including Lusail Stadium, which will host the opening ceremony and the final, are “almost complete,” according to the committee in charge of the project. But Qatar’s defense of the 2022 World Cup is far from over.
Nuseibeh, the Cornerstone founder, continues to be a regular critic of the country on social media, and in an interview in November he hinted that more damaging revelations about Qatar could be forthcoming.
“If everything I know was out in the media,” he said, “the media would have 365 days of reporting about this.”
A more existential fight for the 2022 World Cup continues just out of view: FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, has voiced support for a proposal to expand the tournament to 48 teams from 32. The change is a key foreign policy aim of Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., but it would require not only the Qataris’ consent but also a humbling surrender of its crown jewel, since a 48-team event would be an almost insurmountable logistical challenge for Qatar this close to the tournament unless it agreed to share the hosting rights with its neighbors.
Still, Infantino has enthusiastically sold the idea in his travels. In remarks at a meeting of the G20 leaders in Argentina late last year, he said hopefully, “In 2022, we could also experience a World Cup in Qatar as well as — why not? — some games in other countries of the Arabian Gulf.”
But a shared World Cup isn’t the only idea being suggested. In the first week of January, a website in Northern Ireland published an article hailing the potential for a huge “economic windfall” for Britain if the 2022 World Cup were stripped from Qatar and moved to England instead.
The article was based almost exclusively on a report compiled by a London-based strategy and management consultancy: Cornerstone Global Associates.