It has been revealed that a Saudi-Italia 2030 joint World Cup bid is being considered. Saudi Arabia is hunting for a partner in the bidding process and Italy is high up on its list. But where did this come from? Is this a real possibility?
Saudi-Italia 2030 Joint World Cup Bid Being Considered
Is it Possible?
The Saudi Arabian team is being advised by US-based global consultancy firm Boston Consultancy Group, and they are the ones to suggest a joint bid.
Matt Slater of the Athletic reports that there are few options for Saudi Arabia to consider but that, “a European partner would be a safer option and several sources have told The Athletic that Italy is the most likely candidate.”
By safer option, this relates to infrastructure, transportation, and of course existing stadium culture. Despite this, Italy has not poured much money into its stadiums since Italia 90, Juventus aside. So it would still require some work ahead of hosting a World Cup.
Potential Partners for Joint Bid
The North America World Cup of 2026 marks the start of the new 48 team, 80 match tournament format. And this is why FIFA has changed its mind on the idea of joint bids, historically they are not their cup of tea. But with the growing number of teams, fans, and the cost of hosting such numbers, sharing the load seems to be the way forward.
There are other options of course. The Daily Mail report that: “the Saudis have also been advised on a potential three-way hosting with Morocco and Egypt as part of a ‘MENA’ (the Middle East and North Africa) bid, but the two other countries would need major infrastructure funding to host the World Cup.”
Saudi Arabia Investing in Sport
There is no question about it. Saudi Arabia is certainly attempting to raise its profile in terms of global sporting events. The Guardian report that the Kingdom has spent at least $1.5bn on high-profile international sporting events in a bid to bolster its reputation.
Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title rematch against Andy Ruiz. The Dakar Rally. This year’s inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Various international golf and tennis competitions. Not to mention the $60m Saudi Cup, the world’s richest horse race.
However, the same report states that human rights organisation Grant Liberty suggests that all this is a distraction. Their analysis outlines the huge scale of Saudi Arabia’s investments, in what they term “sports washing.” This is the practice of investing or hosting sporting events in a bid to obscure the Kingdom’s poor human rights record. And instead promote itself as a new leading global venue for sport, tourism, and major events. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, with a legal system based on Sharia law. The human rights record is poor, with limited media freedoms and religious tolerance.
If we know anything about FIFA, we know that money talks. The successful bids of Russia and Qatar were met with oil-soaked cynicism across the board, and Sepp Blatter is suffering the consequences. FIFA has already demonstrated that they are happy to change the entire footballing calendar to accommodate their wealthy members. The winter World Cup in Qatar is to be a unique experience indeed, but wouldn’t the issues with sky-high summer temperatures be the same in the Kingdom?
It has been well reported that Saudi Arabia is on the lookout for “cheap” sports investments according to Forbes. Links with football clubs in England, France, and Germany have yet to bear fruit, but a World Cup bid is a different proposition altogether.
Gabriele Gravina, the president of the Italian football federation, has recently declared his desire to bid for the Euro 2028 or World Cup 2030. Italy could indeed host the entire event, but given the swollen competition size, it may be best to share. But with Saudi Arabia?
Italy and the Kingdom already have a close business, diplomatic and sporting relationship. Saudi Arabia will host the Italian Super Cup in January, the previous season’s league and cup winners facing off, having already staged two previous editions of the event. And the new rumoured Saudi TV company has Serie A viewing rights high up on its priority list.
Competition for Hosting Rights
There are others who have their eyes on this prestigious prize, however. Not least the joint UK & Ireland bid. But recent events at Wembley Stadium, the supposed crown jewel of the bid, have initial hopes in tatters. The Athletic reporting that despite the popularity of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales in world football, there has always been disdain for England. The perceived arrogance of the FA does not help matters, and the return of fan hooliganism is surely the nail in the coffin for this bid.
However, the bidding process does not begin until spring. So maybe there is time for apologies and for lessons to be learned.
Other bids? UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin would like all 55 member associations in Europe to be together behind a single bid. The Iberian bid proposed by Spain and Portugal seems to be his favoured approach at the time of writing.
2030 is the 100th Anniversary of the first World Cup. As a result, there is a muted joint bid from South America including the first-ever hosts, Uruguay. Then there is China. FIFA is desperate for China to host a World Cup to engage with its huge population. But this may be a competition too soon for China, with their footballing organisation needing to be upgraded.
The initial response to this Saudi-Italia 2030 joint World Cup bid has been one of confusion. The travel issues. The temperature differences. The logistics. Who gets to host the final?
There is a lot to work out, and a lot to consider. But as Cuba Gooding Jnr once said: “Show me the money!”
Embed from Getty Images