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Prospect of 2022 Qatar World Cup jumping to 48 teams fading

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MOSCOW (AP) — The prospect of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar growing to 48 teams faded Sunday after a discussion of the thorny issue was pulled from the agenda for FIFA’s annual congress.

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Plans for a feasibility study were put on hold after Qatar World Cup head Hassan Al-Thawadi addressed the ruling council of world football’s governing body and FIFA President Gianni Infantino said agreement from the Gulf nation is a “precondition.”

Having previously said he was keen on an adding 16 teams, Infantino is now casting doubt on the possibility of further disrupting preparations for the Qatar tournament.

The FIFA Congress, which features up to 211 football federations, will now have no say in the number of teams at the tournament in Qatar. Infantino said there would be no change in the number of finalists once qualifying begins, which is likely in early 2019.

“The final decision is that the council will decide,” Infantino said after Sunday’s council meeting in Moscow. “But obviously it cannot decide this without the agreement with the hosts of Qatar. That’s a precondition obviously.”

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Qatar is building eight stadiums to host the Middle East’s first World Cup and 12-14 venues would be required to accommodate 48 teams. That would only realistically be possible if Qatar shared hosting duties, which is problematic because its Middle East neighbors severed ties with Qatar in a diplomatic dispute last year and because it would be a significant change from the plans FIFA voters agreed to in 2010.

The Qatar World Cup schedule has already been changed, with the tournament moved from its usual June-July slot to November-December due to the fierce summer heat.

FIFA is already committed to a 48-team World Cup in 2026 and the South American confederation of 10 nations formally asked Infantino in April to fast-track the expansion. Infantino has toned down his initial enthusiasm over the concept, with little sign of support away from CONMEBOL.

“It’s really premature to discuss about any of the details about it,” Infantino said. “The FIFA administration will discuss with the hosts and then we will see. For the moment what there is, is a World Cup with 32 teams being played.”

Regardless of the number of teams playing in Qatar, the way all 211 men’s national sides are seeded in qualifying is being reconfigured.

A new formula that rewards teams for playing more games was approved Sunday, and it takes effect in July ranking after the World Cup in Russia.

The current system in place since 1993 lets teams boost their status by avoiding friendly games. Now, teams will gain or lose points from their existing points total with each result. Even more weight will be given to competitive games over friendlies.

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“The new formula (is) more intuitive and accurate, eliminating the potential for ranking manipulation,” FIFA said.

Germany is the top-ranked team when the World Cup kicks off Thursday in Moscow.

Before the tournament starts, FIFA will be deciding the host of the 2026 World Cup. The council rubber-stamped the participation of Morocco and the joint United States-Canada-Mexico bid in the ballot on Wednesday.

The North America bid has the edge after scoring 4 overall on a 0-to-5 scale in the FIFA inspection panel’s reports. Morocco scored 2.7, with three parts of the proposals labeled “high risk” — notably the lack of stadiums and hotels.

It is likely only 206 football federations will vote after Kosovo officials told FIFA they will not attend the election meeting after the sudden death of federation president Fadil Vokkri, a former Yugoslavia international, at age 57.

Ghana has kept its right to vote, despite risking a FIFA suspension for government interference in how the national football body is run.

Football in Ghana is in turmoil after a television documentary this week broadcast footage of officials taking cash payments from undercover reporters posing as businessmen.

FIFA asked to expand 2022 World Cup to 48 teams

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The South American soccer confederation (CONMEBOL) has asked FIFA to expand the 2022 World Cup tournament to 48 teams, with the first-ever 48-team World Cup currently schedule to take place in 2026.

According to CONMEBOL, their president Alejandro Dominguez has asked FIFA President Gianni Infantino to speed up the expansion of the World Cup.

Having an expanded tournament in Qatar would produce plenty of problems as the tiny Middle East nation would have to increase the tournament from 64 to 80 games.

With the 2022 World Cup set to take place in November/December instead of the usual June/July timeframe due to concerns over the extreme heat in Qatar, expanding the tournament beyond 28 days during a break in the domestic seasons in Europe would also create plenty of issues.

This is certainly an intriguing request from the South American nations but if FIFA is serious about getting as many teams involved as possible, surely they won’t be that against a 48-team World Cup in Qatar having already sanctioned it for 2026?

Exploited Qatar World Cup workers to receive compensation

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Qatar World Cup organizers say migrant workers building stadiums will receive more than $5 million in compensation after recruitment fees were demanded to secure employment in the Gulf nation.

The announcement highlights ongoing concerns about the exploitation of workers, many of them drawn from South Asian nations including India and Nepal, who are relied on to prepare Qatar for the FIFA tournament in 2022.

World Cup organizing committee secretary general Hassan Al Thawadi acknowledged Sunday that “all too often, the very people who have left their homes to provide for their families are the ones exploited.”

Al Thawadi says his organizing committee and contractors “have agreed on a mechanism to ensure that our workers are reimbursed for the hardships they may have endured when coming to Qatar to work.”

Organizers say 12 million Qatari riyals ($5.2 million) in compensation will be paid to workers from companies over the next two years.

FIFA budgets $6.56BN income for 2022 World Cup in Qatar

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA expects to earn $6.56 billion in a four-year financial cycle to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, despite a drop in ticket and corporate hospitality sales.

FIFA’s 2019-2022 budget projects rises of more than $400 million each in broadcasting and marketing income over the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Still, FIFA says “smaller stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup” should mean ticket and hospitality sales of $500 million will be $75 million less than in 2015-18.

More than half of FIFA’s revenue will come from broadcasting rights, “86 percent of which is already contracted.”

FIFA plans to spend $6.46 billion from 2019-2022, including a $250,000 annual raise for member associations. Each will get $1.5 million annually.

FIFA expects to end the 2022 World Cup with reserves of $1.9 billion.

Audit: Excessive working hours on Qatar 2022 World Cup sites

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Qatar World Cup monitors have found workers going more than four months without rest on building sites.

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The Impactt audit highlights Qatar’s ongoing challenge improving working conditions as it prepares to host the FIFA showpiece in 2022.

At eight of the 19 contractors assessed, working hours exceeded 72 hours per week which Impactt described as a “critical” non-compliance of expected practices.

Three workers for one contractor went without a day off for between 124 and 148 consecutive days. One extreme case reported a 402-hour working month, 90 hours over the limit.

Impactt does acknowledge a “new spirit” in Qatar to embrace changes to labor laws.

After finding 96 percent of new workers paid an average of $1,248 for their jobs, World Cup organizers repaid 10 percent of the workforce.