Ukraine jump on FIFA 2030 show bid bandwagon


Ukraine added to Spanish-Portuguese WC bid Image: gmp

Spain and Portugal this week added Ukraine to their bid for the 2030 World Cup. It will likely be up against bids from South America and a Saudi Arabia-led bid that could feature Egypt and Greece.

‘Forbes’ stated that the most “compact” World Cup ever might be happening in Qatar later this year, but after that, World Cups will become gigantic 48-team multicountry affairs.

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.

‘Forbes’ further stated that the North America World Cup starts the trend off in 2026, but bids for 2030 take this to a new level. With the selection process changed by FIFA to make it more transparent and give every country a vote, bidders will be looking at how they can appeal to as many countries as possible in the same way that presidential candidates often choose a running mate who can appeal to other groups of voters.

The 2026 FIFA World Cup™ will be the 23rd FIFA World Cup™, the quadrennial international men’s soccer championship contested by the national teams of the member-associations of FIFA. The tournament will be jointly hosted by 16 Cities in three North American countries: Canada, Mexico and the United States.

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), to improve the chances of bringing the World Cup to Europe in 2030, only wanted one bid from the continent, and Spain-Portugal got the nod. After the Europewide EURO 2020 tournament, UEFA boss Aleksander Čeferin said such pan-Europe formats wouldn’t be used in future tournaments, but now Spain-Portugal has added a country on the other side of the continent to its bid, adding to the travel and logistics challenges of hosting the tournament.

Ukraine was joint host of the 2012 European Championships, with four Cities hosting games. Out of those four, Lviv’s (Ukraine) stadium is too small for FIFA’s requirements, and the 52,187-capacity Donbass Arena in Donetsk, Ukraine, is heavily damaged and under Russian control.

That leaves just Kharkiv’s (Ukraine) 40,003-capacity Metalist Stadium, which was reportedly in a bad state even before the war, and Kyiv’s 70,050-capacity Olympic National Sports Complex, which hosted the Champions League final in 2018.

Even if there is peace in the region by 2024, when the winning bid will be decided, those stadiums will need repairs and upgrades, and Ukraine’s already stretched finances means any extra World Cup infrastructure is unlikely.

The plan is for Ukraine to host one group, which would require just two stadiums (the final games take place simultaneously so one stadium isn’t enough). The distance between Kyiv and Lisbon (Portugal) is closer than New York to Los Angeles, but the teams in that Ukraine-based group could feel they’re at a disadvantage due to the extra travel.

Spain and Portugal won’t scale down their plans and are still aiming to have the same number of Host Cities despite the addition of Ukraine. When it comes to voting, they will need votes from outside Europe, and can’t rely on votes from Spanish-speaking countries as one of the rival bids is from South America. Cynics would say Ukraine have been added because Spain and Portugal believe it is a vote winner, and that it could even be dropped later should the situation in the region not improve.

The idea that soccer can play a role for peace is one that often gets backing from FIFA’s top officials. But plenty of similar peace-based bids, like South Korea’s proposals for a joint bid with North Korea, haven’t gotten off the ground in the past.

It is certainly a better reason for a bid than sentimentality though. South America’s bid for the 2030 World Cup seems to assume that because Uruguay hosted a World Cup 100 years ago, it is entitled to the 2030 competition (despite most of the games likely taking place in Argentina, Chile and Paraguay). Should they win, it would be South America’s sixth World Cup, despite the region having just 10 soccer federations.

As the 2022 World Cup is in Asia, soccer federations from Asia were not supposed to bid for the 2030 World Cup. Saudi Arabia is trying to get around this through trying to co-host the first multi-confederation World Cup. Adding Egypt makes sense in that the bid can be seen as one uniting the Arab world in a way that Qatar has failed to do. It could win support in both Africa and the Middle East (although Morocco could have a rival bid), but Greece’s involvement doesn’t look likely to win many votes unless the Spain-Portugal-Ukraine bid drops out.

With Spain and Portugal’s inclusion of Ukraine, all three current bids will involve lots of travel and logistical challenges during the tournament.

The expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams and the new voting structure makes adding a running mate a win-win proposition for smaller bidding nations, potentially opening their bid to new blocs of voters while cutting the cost of new stadiums and infrastructure.

But that could come at the cost of more player fatigue from travel, and it could dilute the World Cup atmosphere and the unique feel that comes from having a single host.

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