SERIOUS doubts have been cast over Qatar’s suitability to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with experts suggesting England would be a prime candidate to step in.

A risk assessment produced by Cornerstone Global Associates, presented exclusively to Newsquest Berkshire, details the many reasons why the current hosts face a 'substantial' risk of having hosting rights taken away from them.

The report also presents the details of England’s original bid to host the World Cup in 2018 and what upgrades would be necessary to make existing stadiums suitable for hosting matches.

As well as allegations of corruption behind the decision to award hosting rights to Qatar, experts say the prospect of building enough stadiums on time is small.

With four years to go until the tournament gets underway, criticism has been directed at working standards, ongoing political disputes and the feasibility of delivering the infrastructure needed to host football’s biggest occasion.

Ghanem Nuseibeh, from Cornerstone Global, said: “I think the risk [of Qatar losing hosting rights] is substantial and real.

“This all depends on whether the revamped FIFA, with its new ethics code, is prepared to act, should Qatar be found in breach of its own rules.

“There is also risk of Qatar being unable to host the tournament if FIFA decides to expand it to 48 teams, as Qatar will not be able to provide the necessary infrastructure. So the risk of Qatar not hosting is real.”

Qatar committed to build nine new stadiums and upgrade three existing ones, but it is now only going to build eight. The 1978 hosts Argentina had the same number of stadiums and this was a record low.

England’s bid for 2018, along with all other European nations, was withdrawn at the request of FIFA.

This bid did, however, lay the framework for future hosting viability. It featured plans for 17 stadiums in 12 cities, including venues in London, Manchester and Liverpool. Should FIFA expand the tournament to 48 teams, additional stadiums would be required.

There have been a number of allegations of bribery and several FIFA members have gone on record saying the governing body made a ‘mistake’ by awarding the tournament to the Gulf state, including ex-president Sepp Blatter.

In October 2017, Cornerstone Global published a report on the political risk facing the tournament as a result of the ongoing Gulf crises. It concluded that there was ‘a political risk that Qatar may not host the FIFA World Cup 2022.’

Mr Nuseibeh added: “England has much to offer FIFA and world football in general. England will be able to host the tournament during the summer and therefore it would not force league football to move.

“England has excellent infrastructure and the world's best sporting facilities. England really ticks all the right boxes, as FIFA itself has said in its own evaluation report when it analysed the England bid.

“We have conducted a study that analyses all the stadiums across the country. England already has more stadiums that are FIFA compliant than Qatar has.

“England should be positioning itself now to be ready to take over, by lobbying FIFA officials, should Qatar pull out of 2022. This is up to local MPs to make representations to the Government and the Football Association, as other countries will undoubtedly be preparing to step in, should Qatar not host 2022. England must start getting ready now.”

It would not be the first time a country failed to host the global tournament. In 1974, Colombia was chosen to host the 1986 World Cup. But, in 1982, Colombia withdrew due to financial difficulties. Mexico was announced as the new host three years before the tournament got underway.

The economic benefits to England hosting the tournament have also been highlighted in the report, which predicts as many as 60,000 jobs will be created across the UK.

This could be potentially significant by 2022, as the country will have left the European Union and will be looking to assert dominance post-Brexit.

FIFA was approached for comment.