FIFA will hold talks with human rights groups about issues associated with expanding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, as football’s governing body seeks to find at least one more country in the region to cohost the tournament.
Qatar is currently working on a 32-team tournament and is completing eight stadiums over a 48km radius, however, FIFA President Gianni Infantino is hoping to secure approval in June to expand the marquee event from 32 to 48 teams.
A FIFA feasibility study has already determined that jumping from 64 to 80 games would require two stadiums in at least one more country in the region.
FIFA Secretary-General Fatma Samoura wrote to Amnesty International and other activists on Saturday that “this process also includes an assessment of human rights risks and potential opportunities associated with a possible expansion.
“In that respect, we look forward to the bilateral consultation calls with many of you in the coming days and weeks.”
FIFA maintains it is working jointly with Qatar on the viability of a 48-team tournament, but the concept is mired in complexities stemming from the boycott of Doha by some of its Gulf neighbours.
Kuwait and Oman have emerged as viable options, but Oman has said it isn’t keen on hosting games at the FIFA showpiece.
Kuwait City’s Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium has 60,000 seats but Sabah Al-Salem Stadium only has 26,000 and requires upgrades.
Meanwhile, neighbouring Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates have imposed a land, sea and air embargo on Qatar since June 2017, and have barred Qatari nationals from entering their countries.
Earlier this year, a British citizen said he was abused by Emirati authorities and deprived of food, water and sleep after he was jailed for wearing a Qatari football shirt during the AFC Asian Cup.
Showing sympathy for Qatar is punishable in the oil-rich Emirates, with offenders facing jail terms of up to 15 years.