Qatar’s plan of hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup could be in jeopardy after the president of soccer’s international governing body, Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, announced on Tuesday that he would resign.
According to U.K. bookmaker William Hill, the odds on Qatar losing the rights to the most-watched sporting event in the world were slashed to 5-4 from 5-1 on Tuesday, odds that the event still takes place in the desert state were set at 4-7.
Qatar is spending around $200 billion on infrastructure for the 2022 event, which includes constructing at least 8 new stadiums and a $35 billion metro and rail system.
FIFA’s selection of Qatar to host the 2022 event has stirred up controversy due to the scorching temperatures during the June and July timeframe and also because of the country’s limited soccer tradition. FIFA later pushed back the dates to November-December, which will force major leagues in Europe to change up their schedules despite Europe’s protests. Qatar has also been under fire by rights groups over the working conditions for migrant workers who are building the new stadiums.
Last week the U.S. Justice Department unsealed a 47-count indictment which charges 14 world soccer figures — nine FIFA officials and five corporate executives — with racketeering, bribery, money laundering, and fraud.
In a related announcement, Swiss prosecutors announced that they had opened a probe into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments to Russia and Qatar respectively.
On Tuesday night ABC News reported that Blatter is being investigated by the FBI and U.S. prosecutors as part of the probe that led to last week’s indictments.
“The big issue now is if the event doesn’t happen in Qatar,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Sonia Baldeira said. “Many infrastructure projects that have already been awarded can be at the risk of being canceled or delayed.”
A spokesman for the Qatari committee in charge of World Cup preparations said in a statement on Friday that it had “fully complied” with investigations of the World Cup bidding process and plans to host a “successful” tournament in 2022.
Last year, Credit Suisse warned that Qatar’s stock market could plunge by 20% if it was stripped of the 2022 tournament. Bank of America Merrill Lynch has estimated the potential losses could be around $16 billion.