After FIFA arrests, could Qatar lose the World Cup?

FIFA officials arrested
FIFA officials arrested   

The decision to pick Qatar to host soccer's World Cup in 2022 has always been controversial, but after the arrest of several officials of football's governing body on corruption charges, that win is looking uncertain.

Whether Qatar loses the bid will likely depend on just who at the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) were swept up in the investigation, James Dorsey, senior fellow at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told CNBC.

The U.S. FBI has been investigating the organization for years and at least six top current or former officials were arrested in Zurich Wednesday, with plans to extradite them back across the pond. FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who faces a vote to re-elect him to the top job this week, wasn't among the 14 named in the indictment.

Indian soccer fans and labourers install a giant replica of the football to be used in the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil, on a street corner in Kolkata.
Dibyangshu Sarkar | AFP | Getty Images
Indian soccer fans and labourers install a giant replica of the football to be used in the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil, on a street corner in Kolkata.

Whether Blatter is now able to survive that vote is key to whether Qatar and Russia keep their hosting rights, said Dorsey, who focuses on Middle East issues.

"[Blatter] has promised that no matter what, that Qatar [award] will not be withdrawn," Dorsey said. "Any revisiting of the (Qatari) bid would have to be driven by the legal implications with what's going on in the U.S."

Since being announced in 2010, Qatar's successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup has met a storm of criticism. In addition to an investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding the award, the country's pounding heat made it an unlikely choice for an outdoor sporting event. The country also faced international criticism over its labor rights record for its treatment of migrant laborers.

As many as 1,200 migrant workers may have died in Qatar since it was awarded the cup and another 4,000 are likely to die before the event starts, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said in a report early in 2014.

"Everyone wheels and deals and buys [in the bidding process]," Dorsey added. "If you single out Qatar -- and Qatar is an easy target because it handled its PR abhorrently -- you're also scapegoating them unless you revamp the whole system."

Questions have also swirled around Russia's selection to host the 2018 World Cup.

The arrests Wednesday involve corruption allegations not just over the World Cup hosting rights but also broadcasting rights. Allegations that some members of the executive committee sought bribes in exchange for votes on hosting rights emerged after an investigation by The Sunday Times caught two members on tape.

Read MoreTop FIFA officials to be charged with corruption

In a statement, released on Wednesday morning, the Swiss Attorney General (OAG) announced that it was opening criminal proceedings against unspecified people on suspicion of "criminal mismanagement and money laundering" in connection with the host allocation of the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups.

"The OAG and the Swiss Federal Criminal Police will be questioning 10 persons who took part in voting on the allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups as members of the Executive Committee in 2010," it said.

It added that it had seized electronic data and documents at FIFA's head office in Zurich.

FIFA Spokesperson Walter de Gregorio said on Wednesday that both the Russian and Qatari World Cups were still scheduled to go ahead, despite the investigation and there were no plans for a re-vote.

—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter @LeslieShaffer1