ZURICH: FIFA is understood to be closing in on a long-awaited agreement for Qatar Airways to become a World Cup sponsor and fill the slot left vacant by the expiry of the world federation’s deal with Emirates writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The only factor to be decided concerns the formal date for conclusion of the deal and signing.

It is understood that an announcement in principle could come before next month’s congress in Bahrain to ease concerns among the gathering of national associations about the latest revelations of heavy losses with more to come.

The award to Qatar in December 2010 of host rights to the 2022 World Cup finals prompted early negotiations with the airline but these were frozen in the wake of the corruption scandal which overtook the regime of former president Sepp Blatter in 2015.

Last week FIFA announced a $369m loss for the last financial year but estimated a return to surplus after revenues had been registered from the 2018 World Cup.

This forecast is crucial for the future in the presidency of Gianni Infantino who promised significant increases in development funding in a campaign manifesto leading up to his election in February of last year.