KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Hosting awards for the 2030 and 2034 World Cups are done and dusted. All that remains is for FIFA Congress next year to complete the formalities. This means gift-wrapping 2034 for Saudi Arabia on top of the confirmed cohosting in 2030 by Morocco, Portugal and Spain.

The route map had been drawn up at the start of October by FIFA Council in ratifying the three-way bid for 2030 with the centenary tournament gesture of opening matches in Uruguay (inaugural winning hosts in 1930), Argentina (neighbouring runners-up) and Paraguay (home to the headquarters of the South American confederation).

Now FIFA has confirmed that Saudi Arabia is the only federation to meet its farcical four-week deadline for expressions of interest in 2034. Staging a second finals in the Arab world, after Qatar last year, was ensured when Australia, the only feasible Asia/Oceania, backed off.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino . . . on top of the World Cup

A statement from Football Australia said it 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.”

Those “factors” included FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s long-term preference for anything connected with Saudi Arabia plus enthusiastic support from the Asian confederation president Sheikh Salman. Since Australia is a member of the AFC Sheikh Salman’s words were a blunt warning for anyone else to stay well away.

Inevitably, after the weight of controversy which surrounding Qatar’s hosting, much interest will focus on how FIFA and the Saudi authorities attempt to address human rights criteria.

A decision will also be needed on an expected shifting of the Saudi World Cup from its traditional June/July slot and into the northern hemisphere winter again.

Australia hopes its reward for stepping aside will be hosting rights to the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2026 and the second edition of FIFA’s expanded Club World Cup in 2029.

A FIFA statement concerning expressions of interest in the World Cups and what happens next said:

As established in the Bidding Regulations approved by the FIFA Council, the FIFA administration will conduct thorough bidding and evaluation processes for the 2030 and 2034 editions of the FIFA World Cup, with the hosts to be appointed by FIFA Congresses expected to take place by Q4 2024.

In accordance with these regulations, the FIFA administration will conduct a targeted dialogue with bidders, to ensure complete, comprehensive bids are received and evaluated against the minimum hosting requirements as also previously approved by the FIFA Council.

This dialogue will focus on the defined priority areas of the event vision and key metrics, infrastructure, services, commercial, and sustainability and human rights. Following this, FIFA will publish its evaluation reports and, should those requirements be met, the member associations gathered at the FIFA Congress will appoint the hosts of the respective competitions.