Saudi Arabia took a step forward in its bid to host the 2034 World Cup on Monday by submitting a letter of intent to FIFA. The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) said in a statement that it is “extremely committed” to presenting a competitive bid that will “unite the world through football.”
SAFF said that over 70 FIFA member associations have publicly pledged their support for Saudi Arabia’s bid. The country is seen as a frontrunner to host the tournament in 2034, as FIFA has relaxed its stadium requirements and Saudi Arabia has the financial resources to build new stadiums and infrastructure.
Saudi Arabia’s bid is also seen as a way to improve the country’s image and promote its Vision 2030 development plan. Sport is a key part of the Vision 2030 plan, and Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in sports development in recent years.
The 2034 World Cup will be the 25th edition of the tournament, and the first to be held in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is facing competition from other countries in the region, including Egypt and Qatar. However, Saudi Arabia’s financial resources and its commitment to hosting the tournament make it a strong contender.
FIFA has relaxed the bidding rules for the 2034 World Cup when it comes to stadiums. Originally, bidding protocol for the 2030 and 2034 World Cups dictated that bidders must submit a minimum of 14 proposed stadiums, of which seven must already exist. But the rules for 2034 has seen the threshold drop to only four existing stadiums, which can also include those currently being constructed.
Saudi Arabia is already the heavy favorite to host the World Cup in 2034, which is only open to bidders from Asia and Oceania after FIFA recently decided to make the 2030 World Cup a joint effort between South America, south-west Europe and north Africa. Australia is also interested in hosting in 2034, although Asian and African support is behind the Saudi bid.