Saudi Arabia may cooperate with Italy to bid for the 2030 World Cup, despite it being over 2,050 miles away from the Gulf country, according to an exclusive report by The Athletic.
In March, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that the United Kingdom and Ireland want to “bring football home” for the summer of 2030 in the form of the largest football tournament on earth.
Fortunately for FIFA, it will be more feasible to hold the tournament in more than one country by the year 2026 with 48 teams and 80 matches, meaning more countries can host the tournament. The Athletic reports that Saudi Arabia is partnering with US consultancy Boston Consultancy Group to explore joint bid options, though Italy is the most likely candidate despite their huge distances from one another. According to the report, the Saudis also have been advised that they could co-host the World Cup with Morocco and Egypt as part of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) bid, but the two other nations would require major infrastructure funding to make such a bid feasible.
In the past few years, Saudi Arabia has increased its influence in the sporting world after watching Qatar win the right to host next year’s World Cup. Saudi Arabia has, however, been accused by critics of ‘sportswashing’ – lavish spending on sporting events as a means of boosting its reputation, despite its horrendous record on human rights.
The human rights organization Grant Liberty reports that Saudi Arabia has spent approximately $1.5 billion on high-profile sporting events. US intelligence reports earlier this year suggested the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered and probably approved the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.