The United Arab Emirates would be willing to step in and help host matches during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, according to a senior Emirati sporting official.
Aref al-Awani, tournament director for the upcoming Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in the UAE, stressed that while here had been no formal approach from either FIFA or the Qatar Football Association, the country “would be willing to provide any help needed.”
“If FIFA were to propose it we would certainly look at the economic impact and media opportunities,” Awani said.
“It’s good to have football in the region…sports for us is to bring everybody together,” he added.
FIFA is studying a proposal to expand the 2022 tournament in Qatar from 32 to 48 teams – an increase which would put extreme pressure on the Gulf state.
Qatar announced earlier this year that 90 per cent of the tournament’s infrastructure would be in place by 2019, but another four stadiums would be required if the 48-team format is adopted.
Awani did not explain how Emirati participation would work given the country currently has no diplomatic ties with Doha.
The UAE alongside Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt imposed a blockadeon the Gulf state – severing diplomatic and trade ties on June 5, 2017.
The quartet accuse Qatar of “supporting terrorism” and being too close to regional rival Iran.
Qatar has repeatedly rejected the accusations as baseless.
Amid the ongoing blockade, Doha-based beIN sport has gone dark for thousands of Emirati viewers after the broadcaster complained its content was being pirated.
BeIN has exclusive rights to the World Cup, which started on June 14 in Russia. Its channels were blocked in the UAE immediately after the crisis’ started , but were back on the air last July.