Saudi Arabia set to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup as rights group slams decision


Saudi Arabia is poised to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup, following Australia’s withdrawal from the bidding process. The deadline for bid submissions was October 31, and with Australia’s exit, Saudi Arabia remains the sole contender for the esteemed football tournament.


Football Australia (FA) stated, “After considering all factors, we have decided not to bid for the 2034 competition.” Although FIFA has yet to officially declare Saudi Arabia as the host, it is expected to do so next year.

FIFA had previously announced that the 2030 World Cup would be hosted across three continents: Europe (Spain and Portugal), Africa (Morocco), and South America (Uruguay, Argentina, and Paraguay). Consequently, these continents were ineligible for the 2034 event. The same rule applied to North and Central America, as they are set to host the 2026 World Cup.

Initially, Indonesia seemed a potential candidate. However, Erick Thohir, president of the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI), expressed support for Saudi Arabia’s bid a week later.

The Saudi Arabian Football Association (SAFF) stated that their bid aims to deliver a world-class tournament inspired by Saudi Arabia’s ongoing social and economic transformation and its passion for football.

Announcing its intention to host the World Cup, the Saudi Arabian Football Association (SAFF) said: “Led by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF), the bid for 2034 intends to deliver a world-class tournament and will draw inspiration from Saudi Arabia's ongoing social and economic transformation and the country's deep-rooted passion for football.

”Saudi Arabia’s inaugural FIFA World Cup bid is backed by the country’s growing experience of hosting world-class football events and its ongoing plans to welcome fans across the world to the 2023 FIFA Club World Cup and 2027 AFC Asian Cup.

”Reflecting on the intention to bid, His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, emphasized that Saudi Arabia’s desire to bid for the 2034 FIFA World Cup is a reflection of the country’s progress in all sectors. The Kingdom has quickly emerged as a leading hub and an international destination for hosting major events thanks to its rich cultural heritage, economic strength and the ambition of its people.”

It added, “A renowned host for some of the biggest global sports events since 2018, Saudi Arabia has been home to over 50 international events for both male and female athletes including football, motorsports, tennis, equestrian, esports and golf.

“Saudi Arabia has qualified for the iconic tournament on six occasions since 1994 – most recently in 2022 – when the Green Falcons secured a historic victory over eventual champions Argentina.”

Saudi Arabia’s Sports Minister Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal said in a statement, “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.”

Last week, Human Rights Watch criticized FIFA for not adhering to its own rules concerning Saudi Arabia’s bid, specifically referring to the seventh article of its human rights policy. This article asserts that FIFA will actively work with relevant authorities and stakeholders to fulfill its international human rights obligations.

Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, expressed concern that FIFA might grant Saudi Arabia the 2034 World Cup despite its poor human rights record and lack of transparency. This, she said, makes FIFA’s commitment to human rights appear insincere.

In a recent interview with Fox News, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responded to allegations of using sports to improve the country’s image, or “sportswashing”. He stated that if “sportswashing” could boost his country’s GDP by 1%, he would continue to do so.

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