Saudi Arabia launches bid for 2034 World Cup months after FIFA announced it was the only candidate

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia formally launched its bid to host the 2034 World Cup on Friday, four months after football’s world governing body FIFA announced the kingdom was the only candidate.

The bid comes two years after neighbouring Qatar hosted the first World Cup in the Middle East.

The campaign is under the slogan “Growing. Together”, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) revealed its bid logo, website, as well as a short bid film that celebrates “the passion, spirit and diversity of football in Saudi Arabia”.

“This campaign is powered by the hopes and dreams of 32 million people in Saudi Arabia,” the head of the SAFF bid unit, Hammad Albalawi, said in a statement.

“Our responsibility is to submit the best possible bid to FIFA, make our country proud and fulfil the trust placed upon us by more than 130 Member Associations across the world who supported our bid.”

Under Saudi leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform agenda, which aims to position Saudi Arabia as a tourism, business and sports hub, the kingdom has invested heavily in sport.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced a “multi-year strategic partnership” with the ATP, the governing body of men’s tennis.

Since 2021, PIF has invested heavily in a number of major sports, including setting up the LIV golf tour, a rival to the PGA, and purchasing English Premier League club Newcastle United.

It also owns four clubs in the Saudi Pro League and has lured global stars including Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar with huge salaries.

The investment has led to accusations the kingdom is “sportswashing” international criticism of its human rights record.

Saudi Arabia announced its intention to bid for the 2034 event on October 4, as soon as the procedure had been launched.

As a result of the continental rotation, FIFA had only “invited” member countries of the Asian and Oceanian confederations to apply — thus ruling out the traditional footballing heartlands.

At one stage, Indonesia had considered a joint bid with Australia, or even other countries such as New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore, but on October 19 it agreed to support Saudi Arabia’s bid.

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