Saudi Arabia reportedly offered to pay for new stadiums in Greece and Egypt if those two countries agreed to link up with the Gulf state in a joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup.
The three nations are working together on a proposal to stage the tournament and face competition from Europe – a joint bid from Spain, Portugal and Ukraine – and from South America – with an Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile bid.
A decision on the tournament will be voted on by the FIFA congress in 2024, with the window for bids opening in June 2022.
And, according to POLITICO, Saudi Arabia offered to effectively pay for the hosting costs of Greece and Egypt if they joined their bid and in return the Gulf state would get to host three quarters of all the tournament’s games.
The report states this would cost billions of pounds in construction costs, but the proposal was discussed in a private conversation in the summer of 2022 between Mohammed bin Salman – the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia – and the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (pictured) offered to pay for new stadiums in Greece and Egypt if they agreed to join them in a joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup
The Saudi bid is seen as having more chance of success with the two other nations on board
Saudi Arabia has effectively informed the other two nations that it will ‘fully underwrite the costs’ of hosting the tournament if they get to host 75 per cent of games.
It’s still unclear whether or not the offer was accepted by Greece and Egypt but it’s thought that having the tournament played across three continents would boost their chances of success.
There is the belief that a bid for another tournament in the Middle East – just eight years after Qatar hosted the 2022 edition of the World Cup – would struggle to succeed.
The presence of countries from three continents would also likely attract votes from a wider pool of the FIFA congress – which is made up of more than 200 members from all over the world.
Regarding Africa, the joint bid would hope that it would receive support due to Egypt’s presence, along with Saudi investment in the region.
Similar would be expected in Asia and there is the hope that if Greece can garner support from European nations, then they would have a strong chance of winning the voting.
Saudi Arabia has been accused of using sportswashing to distract people from the country’s poor human rights record after it has hosted several high-profile sporting events such as heavyweight boxing bouts, a Formula One Grand Prix while they have funded the controversial LIV Golf tour.
Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis (above) met with Bin Salman to discuss the issue
A sole Middle East bid is not expected to succeed eight years after Qatar hosted the World Cup
Newcastle United are also owned by a Saudi-backed group. The Gulf state has come under fire for its crackdown on freedom of expression as well as its use of the death penalty and treatment of migrant workers.
But, along with the element of sporting prestige, the report states that if they gain the rights to host the tournament, it is part of Saudi’s wider intentions to position itself as an AfroEurasian hub, with the country set to have strong power and influence spanning three continents.
The three nations also have developed closer ties over recent years with Greek PM Mitsotakis visiting Riyadh on several occasions and providing military supplies and personnel to Saudi Arabia.
Athens was also the first European capital that Bin Salman visited since US intelligence concluded in a declassified report that he approved the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has always tended to enjoy close diplomatic ties with Egypt and last June they signed several agreements and investment deals worth billions of Euros.