February 26, 2019 / 3:48 PM / 22 days ago

UAE, other Gulf states could co-host expanded Qatar 2022 World Cup - sports chief

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman could stage some World Cup 2022 matches if required by hosts Qatar in order to hold an expanded event, the UAE’s sports chief said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: United Arab Emirates sports chief Mohammed Khalfan al-Romaithi speaks with Reuters during an interview at the Abu Dhabi Sports Council office, United Arab Emirates January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Alexander Cornwell/File Photo

FIFA is expected to decide next month whether it will expand the World Cup in Qatar from 32 to 48 teams but has already warned it would be difficult for the Gulf Arab state to do it alone.

A deep political rift in the Gulf complicates the prospects of sharing the competition.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and non-Gulf state Egypt cut political, trade, and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017. The countries accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, which it denies.

“If this is resolved, we are more than happy to help them organise the World Cup,” Chairman of the UAE General Sports Authority Mohammed Khalfan al-Romaithi said of the potential for the UAE to host some matches.

“But I know that if the crisis remains we cannot,” he told Reuters in an interview in Abu Dhabi.

He said the UAE as well as Kuwait and Oman can meet FIFA requirements to host World Cup matches. He also said those countries could hold games at smaller stadiums if permitted by FIFA.

Kuwait and Oman have remained neutral in the Gulf dispute.

Romaithi last month told Reuters the UAE would welcome an approach to co-host the 2022 World Cup if its rift with Qatar was resolved. He believes the UAE is capable of hosting matches for two groups.

Qatar has said it will not take a decision on expanding the tournament until it sees the details of a feasibility study from FIFA.

The UAE this year hosted the Asian Cup tournament, which was won by Qatar and who beat the host country 4-0 in the semi-final.

That match was marred by crowd trouble, with UAE fans throwing shoes and bottles at Qatar players.

Romaithi said those scenes were not representative of Emirati fans and that he had apologised to Qatar FA officials.

Romaithi is challenging Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, a member of Bahrain’s ruling family, for the presidency of the Asian Football Confederation in April.

(This story has been refiled to make it clear that UAE would not host 2022 games if dispute not resolved).

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Toby Davis

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