Making history: Come 2022, Qatar will be the first country in the Middle East to host a Fifa World Cup Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

The Qatar 2022 World Cup finals organisers are growing increasingly worried that many fans won’t be able to afford to travel to the tournament if the coronavirus pandemic causes a global recession.

Many countries around the world are expected to suffer historically deep recessions as a result of the virus and the associated lockdown restrictions.

“It’s all unclear right now — we are entering into a recession,” World Cup organising committee secretary general Hassan Al Thawadi said. “There’s always the concern about the global economy and the ability of fans to be able to afford travelling and afford coming and participating and celebrating the World Cup.”

Sporting events have also been postponed, including football’s European Championships that were due to start next month across he continent from Glasgow to Baku but have been moved until 2021.

Qatar still hopes six of its eight stadiums will be completed by the end of this year despite the COVID-19 disruption. The World Cup is scheduled to be played in November-December 2022 — rather than its usual June-July slot — which provides more time for the resumption of international travel.

“By 2022 I’m optimistic that we would overcome this pandemic as a human race collectively,” Al Thawadi said on a Leaders in Sport live stream. “It will be one of the early opportunities for all of us to celebrate together, to engage together, to bring people together.”

Qatar is promising the World Cup will be affordable for fans but the tiny gas-rich nation has been affected by economic activity shutting down in so many countries. State-owned Qatar Airways, a World Cup sponsor, has said it will cut jobs as the global aviation industry has been largely grounded.

“We are still committed to ensuring that we create a balance between an affordable World Cup and a price range that is affordable for fans and a price range that is workable, functional for the industry, for service providers, for the supply chain that is responsible for delivering the World Cup.”