ZURICH (Reuters) - The 2022 World Cup is unlikely to be increased to 48 teams, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Monday, although if it were enlarged, the possibility of co-hosting would have to be examined.
Infantino told reporters from news agencies that it was premature to talk of a 48-team tournament in Qatar, which he stressed would have to be consulted first, and said he had no idea whether Iran could be a co-host.
The World Cup will be increased from 32 to 48 teams from 2026 but the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) proposed in April that the change be introduced in 2022.
Infantino said the proposal would be put to the FIFA Congress in Moscow on June 10 and a decision would be needed within one year.
“For the moment, we have a World Cup with 32 teams which will be played in Qatar, that is the current situation,” said Infantino.
“CONMEBOL made an interesting request... so we will have to look into it.”
Infantino said that, if it were to be enlarged, “more teams means more stadiums, more venues, more hotels, more transportation. Whether this is possible only in Qatar is a question mark and this should be looked into.”
He added: “You need many people to agree on going down that road and I think it’s premature.
“It’s not likely it could change but I don’t think we should be worried of discussing proposals. Obviously Qatar will have to agree.”
“We have a contract with the Qataris, they have been awarded the World Cup with 32 teams,” he said. “Contracts are there to be respected but there is nothing wrong in discussing.”
Asked directly if Iran could co-host, he said: “I have no idea. Of course, everything is open... let’s go step by step.”
Qatar, which plans to use eight stadiums for the tournament, has been in the middle of a diplomatic standoff after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt severed travel and trade ties with it last June, alleging it was backing Iran and supporting terrorism.
Qatar denies this and says the boycott is an attempt to impinge on its sovereignty and rein in its support for reform.
With the 2018 World Cup starting in Russia on June 14, Infantino said he was confident the tournament would be impeccably organized and played down hooliganism fears.
“I have rarely been so relaxed about the organization of an event,” he said.
“Russia wants to show to the world that it a welcoming country where people can come to celebrate and enjoy football... I have never seen a country that has done so much for the welcoming of fans as Russia is doing.”
Referring to the hooligan threat, he said: “Everything is being done to ensure Russia will offer a safe environment.”
Infantino defended his decision to consider a $25 billion offer from unnamed investors for two new tournaments — a revamped version of the Club World Cup and a global Nations League for national teams.
European football leaders have criticized FIFA, saying they have not being given enough information.
“I cannot disclose (details) in that $25 billion,” said Infantino who was not concerned about which country the investment originated from.
“I wouldn’t have any issue it if was (from) Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Russia, the United States, China, Japan... the more, the better.”
“We need to develop football with new ideas, new development funds,” he added. “We need to get away from having just one tournament one month every four years and thinking this is enough to develop football in the world.”
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge