Australia pull out of bidding for 2034 World Cup, leaving Saudi Arabia as sole candidate

October 31 – Australia have confirmed that they will not bid for the 2034 World Cup, leaving Saudi Arabia as the only host candidate for the finals as FIFA’s deadline for candidate countries to express interest in bidding for the 2034 tournament expired today. 

Instead Football Australia issued a statement saying “that it is ambitious to bring more major tournaments to our shores” and that it will focus on obtaining hosting rights to the 2026 Women’s Asian Cup and an expanded men’s 2029 Club World Cup.

The bidding field for 2034 was left open only to FIFA’s member associations from Asia and Oceania after the world governing body moved to ensure that Africa, Europe and South America will stage the 2030 finals.

Given a very short timescale in which to formally confirm interest in hosting 2034, the Australians said they had “explored 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.

“Instead, we believe we are in a strong position to host the oldest women’s international competition in the world – the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2026 – and then welcome the greatest teams in world football for the 2029 FIFA Club World Cup.

“Achieving this – following the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 and with the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games – would represent a truly golden decade for Australian football.”

Certainly the Australian withdrawal will be looked on favourably by FIFA’s shot callers going forward. While the 2034 World Cup bid entry deadline has now closed, the bidding for the 32-team Club World Cup in 2029 has not even opened. The first Club World Cup will be staged in 2025 in the US.

As the 2023 Women’s World Cup was closing,  Football Australia boss James Johnson said that hosting the 2034 World Cup would be assessed once bid criteria were released, but within hours of FIFA’s announcement that the 2030 World Cup would be a six-country tournament, Saudi Arabia issued a declaration of interest for the 2034 tournament.

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa rallied behind the Saudis. With the Arab Kingdom claiming the support of more than 100 football associations, Australia became isolated and a potential bid looked like becoming political suicide.

At an AFC extraordinary congress, FIFA president Gianni Infantino demanded countries back Saudi Arabia, asking for ’unity’ among the members, saying: “You have a responsibility in this respect, you play an important role in this unity of the world, so I count on you in this respect.”

With just 25 days to consider all the bidding requirements, Australia, and any other potential bidders from the AFC region, were given an almost impossible timeframe within which to act.

With Saudi Arabia now in pole position for the 2034 World Cup, the Middle East will get its second World Cup in four editions. But FIFA’s choice to steer the tournament toward Riyadh will raise further questions over a lack of good governance and transparency in the global governing body.

It also ridicules FIFA’s commitment to human rights and will again reopen media attention on the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a brutal killing that took place in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in 2018 by agents of the Saudi government.

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