Saudis deliver formal 2034 bid letter as nations rush to pledge their support

October 9 – Saudi Arabia have wasted no time submitting their formal letter of intent to bid to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup today. Last week FIFA announced after that only nation from the AFC and OFC could bid for 2034.

Interest in bidding for 2030 and 2034 must be filed by the end of October 2023 with agreements signed to the bidding conditions by end of October 2024. Formal bids have to be submitted by July 2024 saying that the decisions on the hosts will be made at two different FIFA Congresses that will be held earliest from the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2024. For 2034 the timescales are very short to prepare a bid with the required government backing for an event that would still be nine years away.

The announcement and short bidding timelines makes Saudi Arabia the red-hot favourites. Other nations from the regions, of course, aren’t excluded but the timelines and fait accompli nature of the announcements of the bidding process pretty much sends the message that this is a done deal. This is Gianni Infantino’s new, fully transparent FIFA in action but behaving in the tried and trusted back-door-dealing old ways that have become enshrined within FIFA’s global reputation.

No sooner had the 2030 process been announced than a raft of nations issued their support for Saudi Arabia candidature (that had still to be formally submitted and of which there has been zero detail of how they would deliver).

Unsurprisingly, and understandably, the Arab block of the AFC’s membership were fast with their support. Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, Jordan, Sudan, Lebanon, and Syria pledged their support immediately. As did Bangladesh and Kyrgyzstan from the AFC.

African nations Djibouti, Mauritania, and Kenya also rushed to support.

From Concacaf Panama – one of the few to have actually played Saudi Arabia recently in a pre-World Cup warm-up in November 2022 – followed suit. Panama is desperately building trade links with the Saudis (well, really their money).

In announcing their formal letter of intent to bid Yasser Al-Misehal, SAFF president, said: “This is the second step of a hugely exciting journey that the nation is embarking on. The 2034 FIFA World Cup is our invitation to the world to witness Saudi Arabia’s development, experience its culture and become part of its history.”

Saudi Arabia has no real history of hosting major national team tournaments involving more than a couple of matches, but it is in the process of rapidly building that history. Later this year it hosts the seven-team 2023 FIFA Club World Cup and in 2027 the 24-team AFC Asian Cup.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that Saudi Arabia’s desire to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup was a reflection of the Kingdom’s progress in all sectors.

FIFA will think and tell everyone this is progress as well.

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