Media reports suggest that Saudi Arabia is due to make a joint bid for the 2030 World Cup, alongside Greece and Egypt.
According to The Times, sources ‘with knowledge of the process’ predict an ‘imminent bid’, and the development has now been picked up by other UK and Arabic newspapers.
Meanwhile, The New Arab has reported a television statement from Egyptian Sports Ministry Spokesperson Mohammed Fawzi describing Egypt as ‘one of the best countries’ to host the World Cup.
“The three countries are working flat out,” Fawzi said to the DMC television network. “The application to organise is being studied.”
The bid, which would have a valuation in the tens of millions, would compete against the joint tender by Spain and Portugal – the bid officially backed by UEFA.
Meanwhile, South America’s CONMEBOL is supporting another joint bid by Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. The 2030 tournament will mark its 100th anniversary, a century after it was first played in and won by Uruguay in 1930.
The Saudi-Egyptian-Greek bid organisers would not have to worry about any competition from the five football associations of the UK and Ireland, however.
Although having won the support of former UK PM Boris Johnson, as well as other UK and Irish politicians, the idea was eventually shelved in favour of a joint bid for the 2028 UEFA European Championship.
Should the Middle Eastern/Greek announcement be made, and should the bid be successful, it would likely mean another World Cup held during the Winter as opposed to the traditional summer schedule, due to high temperatures encountered in Saudi Arabia and Egypt in particular.
Additionally, the tournament would take place across three continents and hosted by countries from three different governing bodies – the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and UEFA.
Weather is not the only concern surrounding the proposed bid, as Saudi Arabia faces increasing accusations of ‘sportswashing’ – the use of major sporting events to hide its widely condemned human rights record and military operations in Yemen.
The Kingdom has hosted two world title heavyweight boxing bouts in the past four years – both involving the UK’s Anthony Joshua, in respective rematches against Andy Ruiz Jr and Oleksandyr Usyk.
Even more controversially, the country has supported a new golf tournament, the LIV Tour, and the Public Investment Fund (PIF) – the country’s national wealth fund, chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, successfully led a consortium to purchase Premier League club Newcastle United.
“After the purchase of Newcastle, the staging of the Anthony Joshua fights and the hugely controversial LIV golf venture, it feels almost inevitable that Saudi Arabia will also seek to host the 2030 World Cup as a sort of crowning glory to its sportswashing operations,” said Felix Jakens, Amnesty UK’s Individuals At Risk Campaigns Manager.
“Under Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi sportswashing has gone into overdrive at the very time that human rights have deteriorated alarmingly.
“If Saudi Arabia becomes an official bidder for the 2030 World Cup, Fifa should avoid the mistakes it made with Qatar and Russia and ensure there’s a rigorous assessment of human rights risks in awarding the tournament to Riyadh.
“As things stand, it’s virtually impossible to see how Fifa can square Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights with its own principles and responsibilities on human rights.”
FIFA – which has not yet opened the window for 2030 World Cup hosting bids – had previously faced criticism for granting the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, largely due to concerns regarding both nations’ human rights records.