Saudi Arabia has been confirmed as the sole bidder for the 2034 FIFA World Cup
FIFA president Gianni Infantino (middle) attended the launch of Saudi Arabia’s Esports World Cup last week in Riyadh (seated next to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman)
Countries hoping to host the 2034 World Cup were required to express formal interest by October 31 provide a signed bidding agreement by November 30.
FIFA has now confirmed the declarations of interest for both the 2030 and 2034 tournaments, effectively confirming the hosts of the World Cups.
The governing body has said it will conduct a thorough bidding and evaluation process, with formal confirmation of the appointments set to be made by the FIFA Congress in the final quarter of 2024.
FIFA say the process will be evaluated against minimum hosting requirements and say dialogue will take place regarding ‘infrastructure, services, commercial, and sustainability and human rights’.
While FIFA stated requirements must be met in the evaluation reports, the announcement of Saudi Arabia as the sole bidder for 2034 has made awarding of the tournament to the nation effectively a foregone conclusion.
The awarding of the tournament to Saudi Arabia would likely require another winter World Cup, with Qatar’s hosting having forced Europe’s top leagues to pause their seasons last November and December.
With temperatures in Saudi Arabia regularly hitting as high as 43 degrees celsius in summer, a winter slot is the only humane option for a World Cup.
Saudi Arabia’s hosting would be met with controversy, despite them expanding their sporting portfolio in recent years with Formula 1, boxing and the recruitment of stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema to the Saudi Pro League.
Infantino and FIFA are likely to face criticism should Saudi Arabia be ratified as the hosts
Amnesty International, a vocal critic of Saudi Arabia’s push into elite-level sport, said on Tuesday that the Kingdom would need to give FIFA ‘clear and binding commitments’ on areas such as human rights, in order to be awarded the prestige of hosting a World Cup.
‘Human rights commitments must be agreed with potential hosts before final decisions on holding the tournaments are made,’ they said.
‘The best chance for Fifa to obtain binding guarantees to protect workers’ rights, ensure freedom of expression and prevent discrimination linked to the World Cup is during the host selection process – not after the hosts have been confirmed and tournament preparation has begun.’
Last week Human Rights Watch said: ‘The possibility that Fifa could award Saudi Arabia the 2034 World Cup despite its appalling human rights record and closed door to any monitoring exposes Fifa’s commitments to human rights as a sham.’
Saudi Arabia, whose investment in football and development of their own Pro League over the past 12 months has been astronomical, was initially tipped to bid for the 2030 World Cup.
That bid involved Greece, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia co-hosting the tournament, but plans were dropped with Saudi Arabia focusing on being the sole hosts in 2034.
Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the tournament would likely require another winter World Cup
The nation has invested heavily in recruiting top stars like Cristiano Ronaldo over the last year
Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman had announced ‘the entire Asian football family will stand united in support of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s momentous initiative’.
Saudi Arabia has qualified for the World Cup, on six occasions with their first appearance coming in 1994.
They notably defeated world champions Argentina 2-1 at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Saudi Arabia would build up to the 2034 tournament by hosting the Asian Cup for the first time in 2027, with four new stadiums being built for the event.
The 2026 World Cup will be held in the United States in the first 48-team edition, while hosting duties between for the 2030 tournament will be split across six different countries.
Spain, Morocco, and Portugal will be the main tournament host, but in honour of the special anniversary of the first-ever World Cup, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina will all host opening matches.
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