Qatar could lose World Cup 2022 over increased ‘political risk’

Richard Parry
Illustration provided by 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy: Getty Images

Qatar could be in danger of losing the right to host the Fifa World Cup in 2022 after a ‘risk report’ revealed that private discussions have questioned ‘whether or not the tournament will take place as planned’.

Management company Cornerstone Global have conducted a report to evaluate the extent in which the political situation in the region could affect football’s showpiece event.

The report, titled ‘'Qatar in focus: Is the Fifa World Cup 2022 in danger?', has been obtained by the BBC and reveals that ‘tournament insiders and regional experts have both stated to us that it is far from certain Doha will actually host the tournament’.

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A statement from Qatar 2022's Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy has challenged the legitimacy and motive of the report, insisting that "there is absolutely no risk to the future of the first World Cup in the Middle East", while accusing the report’s authors of having "affiliation to the countries blockading Qatar".

Photo: 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery

But the report’s sentiment is not the first Qatar has come under scrutiny as to whether it can successfully stage the tournament, which it was awarded by Fifa in 2010.

The competition has already been rescheduled from the summer to become the first winter event to be staged in the completion’s history. Concerns were raised over whether teams could compete in the souring temperatures, which can reach as high as 50C during the two hottest months of the year in Qatar.

But it is an ‘increased political risk’ that could prove Qatar’s eventual downfall.

Originally heralded by organisers as an event that would symbolise unity in the region, accusations that Qatar are actively supporting terrorism and destabilising the Middle East have seen a breakdown in relations with neighbouring countries.

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In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) all cut ties with Qatar. Saudi Arabia has closed its land borders to the country, while all four countries have closed their air and sea links with the peninsular Arab country.

These allegations have been strongly denied by Qatar, who have also rejected a list of conditions which would see sanctions lifted.

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

But concerns over the region’s political instability have been raised in the report.

The report claims that: "Western diplomats have privately stated they do not know whether or not the tournament will take place as planned”, adding that the ‘reasons for this are many and include open allegations of corruption - both in the bidding process and in the infrastructure development’.

Photo: Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images

"Qatar is under greater pressure regarding its hosting of the tournament,” it continues. “The current political crisis has seen - or at least raised the possibility of - a Qatari opposition movement emerging.

"This means an increased risk for those working on, or seeking contracts for World Cup 2022 infrastructure... with a risk of non-payment and no realistic ability to enforce any legal contracts.

"Given the current political situation... it is certainly possible that the tournament will not be held in Qatar.

What happens next?

If Qatar was to lose the right to host the tournament, an alternate location would have to be found.

Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images

The report states that any cancellation would likely be ‘abrupt’ and would ‘leave contractors involved in a precarious situation that may not be easily resolved’.

Could England host it?

According to a report published on Saturday by the Daily Star, a ‘top placed football source’ believes that England’s ‘proven track record’ of hosting major events would put the country in a strong position, citing the success of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

“England is ready for football to come home,” they said.

“We could practically take on the 2022 tournament overnight. Our cities could take the fan influx, our public transport is capable and the stadiums are of the highest quality.”