Qatar will not be stripped of the World Cup, a FIFA source confirmed on Wednesday, condemning earlier reports that the tournament will be handed to the UK or USA.
Speculation around the future of the 2022 World Cup stemmed from comment on social media released by the Saudi Arabia sports minister, and published by a German online news outlet.
Media outlets seized on remarks by Turki al-Sheikh - whose country is in a prolonged diplomatic row with Qatar - that football’s world governing body was reconsidering whether to let the Arabian Gulf state host the tournament in 2022 and a final decision would be made in September.
But a FIFA insider said: ‘It’s happening, the World Cup is going to happen in Qatar, of course. Why wouldn’t it?
"IF FIFA were really going to strip Qatar of the World Cup, do you really think they’d let a Saudi minister put out a statement? So, if FIFA hasn’t made a statement then we’re not going to strip Qatar of the World Cup."
It is nearly nine months since a Saudi-led alliance – including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt - launched a blockade of Qatar, accusing it of cosying up to Iran and supporting terrorism, which Doha denies.
But UAE security chief Dhahi Khalfan has claimed the blockade would be called off if Qatar lost its right to World Cup.
The FIFA insider added: ‘These stories are going to keep happening because there are so many political things happening over there, and so many different interests. It’s in the interest of some people to have a story like this, maybe not in some other people’s interests’.
Despite the claims being widely dismissed on Twitter as being politically motivated, international media outlets circulated the story, based on a message on Twitter by Turki al-Sheikh.
It said: “I do not wish for the World Cup to be withdrawn from Qatar. However, if found guilty of any ethical violations, the Qatari government must accept the consequences of their actions.”
He then speculated that England would make a ‘great host’ and that “I would extremely enjoy watching the World Cup if hosted in England or USA.”
Saudi Arabia-led outlets then promoted the claims, adding that FIFA would announce the withdrawal of the 2022 World Cup from Qatar by the end of the summer, quoting unnamed sources close to al-Sheikh.
Among other outlets which repeated the allegations was Fox News.
The outlet claimed the information had come from Turki al-Sheikh, from Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority, but did not provide any quotes.
Qatari ambassador to Germany Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman al- Thani claimed Saudi Arabia was peddling fake news stories against Doha.
He added: “Fox News spreading rumours that FIFA will announce the withdrawal of the 2022 World Cup from Qatar, citing sources close to Saudi Sports Minister Turki al-Sheikh.”
The FIFA denial came days after FIFA president Gianni Infantino insisted the 2022 World Cup would be hosted by Qatar as planned.
He said earlier this month: “There is no doubt that 2022 World Cup is taking place in Qatar. I also hope that there would be broad collaboration and cooperation for the World Cup between the countries in the region. At the end of the day, this is a World Cup for the whole region. Everything is on track for the Qatar World Cup.”
A FIFA spokesperson said on Tuesday: "FIFA is in regular contact with the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy handling matters relating to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. FIFA does not comment on allegations or individual opinions."