Saudi Arabia to Host World Cup 2034 Without Competitors
The race to host the 2034 World Cup has taken an interesting turn, with Saudi Arabia emerging as the favored candidate, the president of the International Football Federation (FIFA), Gianni Infantino announced through a social media post, the Saudi Arabia officialy crowned as the host country of the tournament.
After Australia’s withdrawal from the bidding process, the Saudi Arabian Soccer Federation wasted no time in expressing its intent to host the prestigious tournament.
This move has sparked a debate about the fairness of the bidding process and the potential implications for the future of the World Cup.
FIFA’s Unprecedented Co-Hosting Plan
The road to the 2034 World Cup began with FIFA’s decision to accept only one candidate for the 2030 edition.
A unique co-hosting plan involving Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay was unveiled, effectively removing Europe, Africa, and South America from the running for the 2034 tournament.
Although the co-hosting plan received support from the three South American countries, only one game each was allocated to them, leaving the door open for other contenders.
Challenges for Other Potential Bidders
While Saudi Arabia quickly declared its interest in hosting the 2034 World Cup, other potential bidders, such as Australia, now face tight deadlines and significant challenges.
Australian soccer officials have shown interest in hosting the tournament, especially after their successful co-hosting of the 2023 Women’s World Cup with New Zealand. However, they have limited time to produce a comprehensive bidding agreement that aligns with FIFA’s requirements.
One of the key challenges for Australia is the availability of suitable stadiums. FIFA mandates a minimum of 14 stadiums with a seating capacity of at least 40,000.
While Australia may have hosted previous major sporting events, meeting this requirement could prove to be a hurdle in their bid.
In contrast, Saudi Arabia, in preparation to host the 2027 Asian Cup, already meets FIFA’s criteria with multiple stadiums meeting the capacity requirements.
FIFA’s Demand for Support, Opportunities
In addition to stadium requirements, FIFA also emphasizes the need for support and opportunities in the bidding process.
This support, combined with FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s close ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, gives Saudi Arabia an advantage in the bidding process.
Timing, Impact of a Saudi-hosted World Cup
If Saudi Arabia’s bid is successful, the 2034 World Cup is likely to be played in November-December, similar to the 2022 edition in Qatar.
This timing poses challenges for influential European clubs and domestic leagues, as it falls during the heart of the European football season. Negotiations and accommodations would need to be made to ensure the participation of top players and the smooth running of the tournament.
Despite potential challenges, FIFA members will have the final say on selecting the hosts for the 2030 and 2034 World Cups.
The FIFA Council, chaired by President Gianni Infantino, has already shaped the bidding process, but the decision will be made in late 2024.
Long-term Goal for Saudi Arabia
Hosting the World Cup has long been a goal for Saudi Arabia, and if successful, it would mark a significant milestone for the country’s soccer development.
The Saudi Arabian Soccer Federation has been actively signing working agreements with national and continental soccer bodies worldwide, demonstrating their commitment to the growth of the game. Additionally, the sovereign wealth Public Investment Fund’s acquisitions of English club Newcastle and majority control of four leading Saudi clubs further highlight their dedication to the sport.
FIFA’s decision to accept only one candidate for the 2030 edition, coupled with the unprecedented co-hosting plan involving multiple continents, has shifted the dynamics of the bidding process. While other potential bidders face challenges, Saudi Arabia’s bid seems well-positioned with the support of FIFA member associations and the readiness of stadiums.
A successful bid by Saudi Arabia would mark a significant milestone for the country’s soccer development and provide new opportunities for the growth of the game globally.
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