Saudi Arabia confirmed it plans to bid for the men’s football World Cup in 2034, as the kingdom tries to add to its slate of high-profile sporting events and become a major tourism hub.
(Bloomberg) — Saudi Arabia confirmed it plans to bid for the men’s football World Cup in 2034, as the kingdom tries to add to its slate of high-profile sporting events and become a major tourism hub.
The announcement late on Wednesday came shortly after FIFA, football’s governing body, said Morocco, Portugal and Spain will be hosts for the 2030 tournament. The 2026 version will be played in the US, Mexico and Canada.
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The kingdom “intends to deliver a world-class tournament and will draw inspiration from Saudi Arabia’s ongoing social and economic transformation,” according to state media.
Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country is investing trillions of dollars in new cities, tourism resorts and electric-vehicle manufacturing as it looks to diversify from oil.
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Sport is a big part of that push, with Saudi Arabia hosting events such as Formula One Races, boxing bouts and the Dakar Rally in recent years.
It’s also pumped money into football. The country’s teams spent $875 million between June and August to bring in foreign stars such as Brazil’s Neymar and France’s Karim Benzema. Only English clubs outspent them.
Saudi Arabia had considered going for the 2030 World Cup, with several media outlets saying it was planning a joint bid with Greece and Egypt.
A successful bid for 2034 would see the World Cup return to the Persian Gulf for the second time, after Qatar played host in 2022.
Several critics have accused Saudi Arabia of using events to “sportswash” its image and human-rights record. In a Fox News interview last month, the crown prince said sports investments were primarily aimed at growing the economy.
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