Doha (AFP) – The English Football Association, once a vocal critic of the decision to let Qatar host the 2022 World Cup, on Wednesday signed a cooperation agreement with tournament organisers in Doha.

Chairman Greg Clarke was in the Gulf to sign “memorandum of understandings” with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, the body responsible for the 2022 tournament, and the Qatar Football Association (QFA).

The agreements will help “promote and improve football, share resources and expertise” as well as expand grassroots projects, according to a joint statement from the Qatari organisations.

The statement also said the FA and the QFA will “explore the possibility of organising friendly matches between the national teams” across different age groups.

“This is a great opportunity for us to exchange experiences and expertise in different aspects including national teams… which will have a direct positive impact on football ahead of the World Cup in Qatar,” said Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al-Thani, QFA president.

Clarke, who arrived at QFA headquarters in central Doha with the British ambassador to Qatar, Ajay Sharma, said: “We are looking forward to playing and enjoying an exciting World Cup hosted by Qatar in 2022.” 

Clarke also met the chief Qatari World Cup organiser, Hassan Al-Thawadi, secretary general of the Supreme Committee.

It underlines a major change by the English FA towards the Qatar tournament.

Former chairman Greg Dyke once told British lawmakers that the award of the 2022 World Cup, together with Russia in 2018, which England unsuccessfully bid for, was “the worst moment in FIFA’s history”.

Qatar has signed a number of bilateral agreements with other football associations since the beginning of the Gulf diplomatic crisis last June, which has seen the World Cup state isolated.

The British agreement recently announced it would help provide air security during the 2022 tournament.