Saudi Arabia Set to Host 2034 FIFA World Cup as Australia Withdraws

Discover the latest in the world of sports as Saudi Arabia emerges as the sole contender to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup after Australia's surprising exit. Get insights into the bid process and Saudi Arabia's ambitious sports journey. Stay informed with our in-depth coverage.

Saudi Arabia Set to Host 2034 FIFA World Cup as Australia Withdraws
Saudi Arabia's football fans attended the 2022 Qatar World Cup in their thousands [File: Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

In a surprising turn of events, Saudi Arabia is on the verge of securing the hosting rights for the 2034 FIFA World Cup. This development comes as Australia has withdrawn from the bid, leaving Saudi Arabia as the sole declared candidate for the prestigious football tournament.

FIFA World Cup 2034: Saudi Arabia Emerges as Sole Contender

FIFA had set a deadline for member federations in Asia and Oceania to submit their bids for hosting the 2034 World Cup. However, Australia's decision to opt out of the race has effectively made Saudi Arabia's victory a near certainty.

Football Australia (FA) made their stance clear in a statement, explaining, "We have explored the opportunity to bid to host the FIFA World Cup and – having taken all factors into consideration – we have reached the conclusion not to do so for the 2034 competition."

While Saudi Arabia's hosting status still requires FIFA's official approval, the decision is expected to be made in the coming year.

Saudi Arabia's Ambitious Sports Journey

This achievement would mark the culmination of Saudi Arabia's ambitious efforts to become a prominent player in the global sports arena. The nation has made significant investments, attracting star footballers to their domestic league, acquiring English club Newcastle, launching the LIV Golf tour, and hosting major boxing events.

The fast-tracking of the 2034 World Cup hosting race followed the joint bid by Spain, Portugal, and Morocco for the 2030 edition. FIFA limited the bidding opportunity to member federations in Asia and Oceania, providing them with less than a month to enter the race and secure government support for their bids.

Saudi Arabia Gears Up for 2034

Shortly after FIFA's announcement, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation declared their intention to bid, and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) expressed their support for the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia's experience in hosting the 2022 World Cup in neighboring Qatar and their upcoming role as the host for the men's Asian Cup in 2027 positions them well for the 2034 World Cup.

The tournament's requirements include 14 stadiums for the 48-team competition, and Saudi Arabia is already in the midst of a comprehensive stadium construction and renovation program.

Vision for the Future

Sports Minister Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal stated, "Hosting a FIFA World Cup in 2034 would help us achieve our dream of becoming a leading nation in world sport and would mark a significant milestone in the country's transformation. As an emerging and welcoming home for all sports, we believe that hosting a FIFA World Cup is a natural next step in our football journey."

Human Rights Concerns

However, concerns have been raised by Human Rights Watch regarding FIFA's application of its own rules, particularly in relation to Saudi Arabia's bid. The organization highlighted FIFA's human rights policy, emphasizing the need for engagement with relevant authorities to uphold international human rights responsibilities.

Crown Prince's Commitment

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has faced accusations of "sportswashing" but remains committed to promoting sports and its potential economic impact, stating, "If sportswashing was going to increase my GDP by way of 1 percent, then I will continue doing sportswashing."

While the final decision awaits FIFA's approval, the prospect of Saudi Arabia hosting the 2034 FIFA World Cup is a significant milestone in their sports journey and a testament to their growing prominence in the world of sports.