Expanded World Cup to generate $300-400 million windfall

DOHA: Qatar's Cabinet has approved proposals to allow foreigners to own property and be granted residency at the same time, according to an official statement. Non-Qataris would be allowed to fully own property in 10 unspecified areas of the country, said a statement from the Qatar News Agency. "The Cabinet agrees to allow non-Qatari ownership of residential villas within residential complexes and to allow non-Qatari ownership of shops within commercial complexes," said the QNA. The law also covers commercial property.

The government will identify 16 areas in the country where property contracts could be held over a period of 99 years. The Cabinet also agreed on "granting residence to non-Qatari owners of real estate", the QNA reported. Foreign property ownership has been allowed in Qatar previously but under tight regulation. It was also thought to be restricted to one area to the north of the capital Doha.

It is not yet clear when the new law will come into force. The Cabinet said it would hold a press conference next week to give further details. The move comes as gas-rich Qatar seeks further investment in its economy, especially the faltering property sector, as it remains isolated by neighboring former allies in a long-running Gulf diplomatic dispute. Saudi Arabia, the United Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt are among countries who have cut ties in protest at Qatar's "support" for terrorism and Iran. World Cup 2022 host Qatar denies the charges and says its neighbors want regime change in Doha.

$300-400 million windfall

An expanded 48-team World Cup in 2022 would deliver a financial windfall of up to $400 million according to an internal feasibility study commissioned by FIFA, a source with knowledge of the document said. The ruling council of football's global governing body meets in Miami this week with the issue of the 2022 World Cup format in Qatar expected to dominate discussions. FIFA President Gianni Infantino is a notable supporter of increasing the size of the tournament from 32 teams to 48 teams, accelerating an expansion which was first due to take place at the 2026 tournament.

A feasibility study which will be put before the council at this week's meeting in Miami starting on Thursday, is broadly supportive of the expansion in 2022. A source with knowledge of the study told AFP an expanded tournament would boost incomes by between $300 million and $400 million (between 265 and 354 million euros), with the extra revenue driven by increased television and marketing rights and ticket sales. The World Cup is by far FIFA's biggest source of income, with last year's tournament in Russia earning a higher-than-forecast $6.4 billion.

However a 48-team World Cup could only go ahead if games are shared with neighboring countries, several of whom have imposed a crippling blockade of Qatar since June 2017. The source said five countries could be considered for possible World Cup games-Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. But Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE would only be candidates if their governments ended the Qatar blockade, according to an excerpt of the feasibility study.

"Due to the geopolitical situation in the region and the recent blockade that Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE have imposed on Qatar, the involvement of such countries in organizing a co-hosted tournament with Qatar would require the lifting of such blockade, in particular the lifting of all restrictions relating to the movement of people and goods between these countries," the feasibility study said. "Ideally, this should be evidenced as a precondition to the appointment of such co-hosts and should cover all aspects to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022."- Agencies