21/04/2024

Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA. PHOTO: FIFA - Twitter

Australia has been dealt another blow towards quickly fading hopes of hosting the 2034 FIFA World Cup as relaxed stadium requirements have paved the way for a heavily backed Saudi Arabian bid.

For 2030, FIFA will require Spain, Portugal and Morocco to submit 14 suitable stadiums with a capacity of at least 40,000. (It is unclear whether the three centenary games to be played in South America contributes to this figure).

Crucially, seven of these stadiums must already exist. Looking forward to 2034, Australia currently has eight.

However, given the need to negotiate with the AFL and NRL, as well as a reluctance to build too many new rectangular stadiums, any bid is understood to be joint with other Asia-Pacific associations.

It appears on the surface that Saudi Arabia find themselves in an even more dire predicament, with the King Fahd International and King Abdullah stadiums the only two facilities that meet FIFA’s minimum capacity requirements.

That is until the FIFA World Cup 2034 Overview of Hosting Requirements, published last week by FIFA, reduced the number of currently existing stadiums required from seven to four.

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The provisions also expanded the definition of ‘existing’ to include stadiums that were currently under construction or renovation.

As part of Saudi Arabia’s successful bid for the 2027 Asian Cup, the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh will be upgraded to a capacity of 43,912.

Whilst a new stadium in Dammam will seat 47,271, bringing Saudi Arabia’s tally of ‘existing’ stadiums with a minimum capacity of 40,000 to four, compliant with FIFA’s bidding regulations for the 2034 World Cup.

It’s the latest setback to Australia’s desire to host a Men’s World Cup, with the Saudi Arabian bid proving to be an almost insurmountable challenge.

Speaking to The Guardian, a FIFA spokesperson said that the regulations had been updated from the 2030 requirements to make them fit for purpose.

“The requirement for four existing stadiums for the 2034 editions factors in the significantly longer lead in time to the tournament and guards against infrastructure being more out of date, making allowance for having the best quality possible,” they said.

Football Australia has until October 31 to officially register their interest in bidding for the 2034 World Cup.

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