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Labour MP raises 2022 World Cup concerns over Qatar crisis

Labour MP Mark Tami has raised concerns over the delivery of projects for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar as the country becomes increasingly embroiled in a diplomatic crisis.

Arab nations including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilising the Gulf by supporting radical Islamist groups.

A number of leading UK firms have major projects for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, including Zaha Hadid Architects, which is designing the Al Wakrah stadium for the 2022 World Cup, and sports specialist AFL Architects, which is delivering Foster + Partners’ designs for the 80,000 Lusail Stadium.

Mr Tami, who is vice-chair for the all-party parliamentary British-Qatar group, told CN’s sister title Architects Journal that if the diplomatic crisis continues “questions will start to be put over both the World Cup and other construction projects”.

He said: “If you’re being cut off, in all sense of the word, by your neighbours then that is not a great advert to go there.”

Qatar’s neighbouring countries have halted all land, sea and air traffic to the nation, thrown out its diplomats and ordered Qatari citizens to get out of the Gulf states within two weeks.

Asked whether the crisis could threaten the construction of stadiums for the 2022 World Cup, Mr Tami, who said there was a lot of investment going into buildings and infrastructure in Qatar, said: “The longer it goes on the more people will start questioning, ‘Is this going to happen? Are we going to have some boycott or something by countries taking part? Will there be pressure put on those?’”

He added: “It’s in everybody’s interests that this is resolved as quickly as possible.”

Among the practices who have offices in the country’s capital Doha are Pascall + Watson and Makower Architects. Numerous London-based firms, including Allies and Morrison and Mossessian Architecture, are also currently working on the huge Heart of Doha project, backed by Msheireb Properties. 

To reassure those UK architects based in Qatar, Mr Tami said that he did not think “the tanks are going to roll in or anything like that”, but he added, “the longer it goes on, the more people will consider whether that’s where they should be.”

The Guardian also raised concerns over the prospect of Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup, reporting that a source involved with the committee tasked with building the tournament’s facilities said that the diplomatic crisis posed the greatest challenge to the nation hosting the event since it won the vote in 2010. 

RIBA head of international Marcus Deeley said: “The RIBA is monitoring the situation in Qatar carefully and is in close and regular contact with UK government organisations in Doha and Dubai.

“Members with concerns can contact our international team, which includes our RIBA Gulf Committee for further information. Our members planning to travel to the region should keep an eye on the UK Foreign Office website for the latest advice.”

However, Lord Kilclooney, also a vice-chair for the All-Party Parliamentary British-Qatar Group and a civil engineer, said he did not think the diplomatic crisis would affect preparations for the World Cup. 

He said: “The UK and Qatar are maintaining diplomatic relations; we will continue to work with Qatar in the same way as before.

“That being the case, I don’t see how it should impact on design firms in the UK working in Qatar. If we were breaking off diplomatic relations in the same way that Saudi Arabia is doing, then I would be very concerned.

“What impact there will be, if this row continues, will be the football supporters coming from those countries to Qatar to the event. I can’t see it having any impact on our technical side.”

A FIFA spokesperson said: “FIFA is in regular contact with the Qatar 2022 Local Organising Committee and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy handling matters relating to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

“We have no further comments for the time being.”

Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy has been contacted for comment. 

AFL Architects and Foster + Partners declined to comment to the AJ on the potential impacts on their schemes. Zaha Hadid Architects has also been contacted for a statement.

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