FIFA had set a deadline of Tuesday for bids to be submitted to host the tournament; however, Saudi Arabia is the only declared contender following Australia’s withdrawal.
Football Australia (FA) released a statement saying, “We have investigated 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.”
Winning now appears to be a formality, but FIFA still needs to approve Saudi Arabia as the hosts a decision that will probably be made next year.
It would mark the pinnacle of Saudi Arabia’s aspirational journey to become a major force in international sports. The country has already invested enormous sums of money to host high-profile boxing matches, buy English club Newcastle, bring in dozens of star football players to their domestic league, and start the independent LIV Golf Tour.
FIFA chose to expedite the 2034 hosting competition earlier this month, allowing only member federations in Asia and Oceania to submit bids, after awarding the 2030 World Cup to a combined bid by Spain, Portugal, and Morocco, which will also feature games in South America.
They had less than four weeks to enter the contest due to the short deadline, and they had just one month left to sign a bidding agreement that needs approval from the government.
Soon after the FIFA announcement, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) declared its support for the kingdom’s quest to return the World Cup to the Middle East, following neighboring Qatar’s successful hosting of the 2022 tournament. The Saudi Arabian Football Federation also revealed its plans to bid.
In addition to hosting the men’s Asian Cup in 2027, Saudi Arabia has commenced an extensive development program aimed at constructing and renovating stadiums that are anticipated to be utilized for the World Cup as well.
Fourteen venues are required for the 48-team competition, according to FIFA’s bidding paperwork.
“Holding the FIFA World Cup in 2034 would be a major turning point in the history of this country and help us realize our dream of becoming a leading nation in world sport,” Saudi Arabia’s Sports Minister Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal said in a statement.
“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.”
Human Rights Watch claimed this week that FIFA was not following its own regulations, particularly article seven of its human rights policy, with reference to Saudi Arabia’s candidacy.
In order to fulfill its obligations under international human rights law, FIFA “will constructively engage with relevant authorities and other stakeholders.”
Human Rights Watch director of global programs Minky Worden said, “FIFA’s commitments to human rights are exposed as a sham by the possibility that it could award Saudi Arabia the 2034 World Cup despite its appalling human rights record and closed door to any monitoring.”
In an interview with Fox News last month, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman addressed claims of sportswashing, stating: “If sportswashing was going to enhance my GDP by way of 1 percent, then I will continue doing sportwashing.”
“I don’t care. One percent growth of GDP from sport and I’m aiming for another one-and-a-half percent. Call it whatever you want, we’re going to get that one-and-a-half percent.”