Saudi Arabia set sights on 2030 World Cup



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Saudi Arabia planning World Cup bid 2030 Image: AFC

Saudi Arabia is preparing a bid to stage the FIFA 2030 World Cup™. The entire initiative is being seen as a move to win a seat at the global football table. The bid is set to rival a mooted joint-one by Britain and Ireland.

‘The Times’ stated that an American consultancy company has been hired by the Saudis to create the strategy behind the bid.

The 2030 FIFA World Cup™ will be the 24th FIFA World Cup™, a quadrennial international football tournament contested by the men’s national teams of the member associations of FIFA. The event will mark the centennial of the first World Cup.

‘The Times’ further stated that the bid may be part of a joint one – even with a European country.

Recently, the Saudi football federation asked FIFA whether it would consider hosting the World Cup every two years – that request will now be debated. The Saudis also have close links with the FIFA boss, Gianni Infantino.

The bid to host the World Cup follows several other moves by Saudi Arabia to gain a foothold in the world of football including the Public Investment Fund’s (PIF’s) pursuit of Premier League team Newcastle United F.C., the reported bidding of Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League TV rights and sponsorship opportunities.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF) is the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia. It is among the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world with total estimated assets of $399 billion. It was founded for the purpose of investing funds on behalf of the Government of Saudi Arabia.

The above move follows Saudi having a big part in Formula One, as well as boxing, having hosted the fight between the British professional boxer Anthony Joshua and the American professional boxer Andy Ruiz Jr. – and agreeing to hold the now canceled clash between Joshua and the British professional boxer Tyson Fury.

The 2030 World Cup is the next available edition of the tournament, with the 2022 event to be held in Qatar and the 2026 showpiece to be co-hosted by the US, Mexico and Canada.

A Saudi Arabia bid for the tournament would likely face stiff competition. In March, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the Government had placed its full support behind a proposed UK and Ireland bid for the 2030 soccer spectacle.

In October, Spain and Portugal confirmed plans to enter a joint bid. Romania, Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia have also signaled their intent to launch a combined bid. In March 2019, a South American effort to return the World Cup to the continent in 2030 was revamped as Chile committed as part of a joint bid with Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

News of a potential Saudi Arabia bid for the tournament comes after FIFA last month greenlighted a request from the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to study hosting the World Cup and Women’s World Cup every two years instead of four, which would give more opportunities for other countries to play host to the prestigious tournament.

FIFA chief Gianni Infantino visited the Saudi Arabian Football Federation in January. Infantino met Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to discuss “the role football can play as a uniting factor in the region”.

Saudi Arabia has secured hosting rights to a number of major sporting fixtures in recent years as part of its Saudi Vision 2030 framework to diversify the country’s economy. Saudi Arabia landed hosting rights for the 2034 Asian Games multisport event back in December, while the country will host a Formula 1 Grand Prix for the first time in November this year when Jeddah stages a night-time street race.

Saudi Vision 2030 is a strategic framework to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism.

The possibility of a Saudi Arabia bid for the World Cup has emerged after the United States Trade Representative (USTR) office, the Government organization responsible for advising US trade policy, recently called on Saudi Arabia to improve its enforcement of IP protection as the Kingdom remains part of its priority watchlist.

Having added the country to the priority watchlist in 2019 amid the activities of pirate sports broadcaster beoutQ, the USTR kept Saudi Arabia on the list last year and has done so again in 2021.

This comes despite beoutQ ceasing operations in August 2019 and the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property having “continued to take steps to improve IP protection, enforcement and awareness” in 2020, according to the USTR.

beoutQ is a pirate pay television broadcaster serving Saudi Arabia. Established in 2017, the service primarily simulcasts the programing of Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sports, with beoutQ on-air logos overlaid over the original ones.

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