• May include Morocco and Egypt
Saudi Arabia is considering bidding for the 2030 World Cup with Italy, which is more than 2,000 miles from the Gulf country, according to a report.
The application process for this edition of the world’s largest football tournament is still in its infancy, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed in March that the UK and Ireland aim to “bring football home” in the summer of 2030.
By this year, the World Cup will grow to 48 teams and 80 games, which means the tournament, which will be played in more than one country, is considered a more encouraging option for FIFA.
According to The Athletic, Saudi Arabia is working with the US-based Boston Consultancy Group to consider a joint bid with multiple options, although Italy is the most likely candidate despite the great distance between the nations.
The report says that as part of a “MENA” (Middle East and North Africa) application, the Saudis were also advised on possible three-way hosting with Morocco and Egypt, but the other two countries would need substantial infrastructure funding around the world include cup.
Saudi Arabia’s influence in the sports world has grown in recent years after seeing neighbor Qatar win host rights for next year’s World Cup. However, critics have repeatedly accused the Saudis of “sportswear” – they spend large sums of money hosting sporting events to improve the country’s reputation despite its poor human rights record.
Saudi Arabia has spent at least $ 1.5 billion on high-profile international sporting events, according to a report by human rights organization Grant Liberty.
This includes hosting Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight boxing world title rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr in December 2019, as well as a European Tour golf tournament featuring many of the game’s biggest names – the Saudi International – and the Dakar Rally.
The Saudis also hosted a Formula 1 Grand Prix for the first time this year, while the country’s state fund – the Public Investment Fund – made a failed £ 300m takeover bid for Newcastle United last year.
The Premier League did not approve the offer due to concerns about ties between the fund and the Saudi state, meaning Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would have owned the club if the deal had been closed.
The consortium of buyers insisted that the PIF be segregated from the state and, as Sportsmail revealed, bin Salman was so angry that he warned the prime minister on June 27 last year that if the takeover is not approved, Anglo-Saudi relations would be damaged would.
Bin Salman approved and probably ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, according to a US intelligence report earlier this year.
Saudi Arabia and Italy have also teamed up in the sports world in recent years. The Gulf state is hosting the last two Italian Supercup finals – and will do so again this year.
Italy, which won the Euro 2020 final this month by beating England in the final, also has the experience of hosting four major tournaments, and while they haven’t had any in the last 30 years, this summer they have been some of the Games of the EM.
Selected from Sportsmail.co.uk