Saudi Arabia is edging closer to hosting the 2034 FIFA World Cup. The governing body had previously stated that the 2034 edition of the prestigious tournament would move to the Asia-Pacific region as part of their efforts to revolve the tournament in every part of the world.
The official bid by any country from the Asia-Pacific region has to be submitted before the deadline of October 31, 2023. Saudi Arabia and Australia were expected to be the leading candidates. However, the Australian FA released an official statement declaring that they are opting out of the race to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup.
The statement read: “We have explored the opportunity to bid to host the FIFA World Cup and – having taken all factors into consideration – we have reached the conclusion not to do so for the 2034 competition“.
Australia is coming off hosting a successful 2023 Women’s FIFA World Cup as a joint host with New Zealand. However, they have opted out of the 2034 edition in order to focus on bidding successfully for the Women’s Asian Cup in 2026 and the 2029 Club World Cup.
🚨 𝗢𝗙𝗙𝗜𝗖𝗜𝗔𝗟: Australia will NOT make a bid for the 2034 World Cup.
Only Saudi Arabia have announced a bid to host the World Cup so far.
— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) October 31, 2023
The decision from Australia has put Saudi Arabia in pole position to host the World Cup in 2034, as it is the only official bid. The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) has already announced that they will bid for the 2034 World Cup, minutes after FIFA announced that the 2034 edition will move to Asia-Pacific.
The bid from Saudi Arabia is backed by key members of the AFC, including Japan, Uzbekistan, and India. SAFF also declared recently that its bid will be backed by over 100 of FIFA’s 211 member associations. All the key signs point towards Saudi Arabia as the host of the 2034 FIFA World Cup.
The rotational policy of FIFA for the World Cup
Back in 2016, FIFA announced a rotation policy for their most prestigious tournament. As per the policy, the World Cup cannot be hosted on the same continent more than once every 12 years. This was introduced to ensure that the World Cup retains the integrity of its name and is indeed spread throughout the world.
As part of the policy, the 2026 World Cup was awarded to the USA, Mexico, and Canada. It was so because Europe and Asia were out of the race, with the previous edition being in Russia and Qatar. Similarly, Europe was back in contention for the 2030 edition, which allowed Spain and Portugal to win the bid along with Morocco as the joint host.
FIFA has been accused by Human Rights Watch of ignoring its own rules through its process for awarding the 2030 and 2034 men’s World Cup, which has made Saudi Arabia the heavy favorite for the latter edition. 🇸🇦
FIFA additionally set a tight deadline of October 31 for countries… pic.twitter.com/wWOHup0Nrw
— Football Talk (@FootballTalkHQ) October 31, 2023
Being the host of the World Cup has been a highly contested issue since the inception of the tournament back in 1930. At the start, it was decided that the World Cup would be rotated between South America and Europe. When the 1934 and 1938 editions were awarded to Italy and France, the South American contingent wasn’t happy.
Argentina and Uruguay boycotted the 1938 FIFA World Cup in France in protest of the same. The protest worked in the favor as after World War 2, the World Cup was back in South America as Brazil hosted the event. Almost a century later, the competition still attracts controversies due to the hosting bids, as evident with Russia and Qatar in 2018 and 2022.
Since Saudi Arabia will be the only eligible bidder in 2034, it will be a straightforward decision. The World Cup in 2034 will be the crown jewel for Saudi Arabia as part of their 2030 Saudi Vision.