World Cup 2030 to Be Hosted in Spain, Portugal, Morocco … and South America

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The 2030 World Cup is to be played on three continents after Morocco, Portugal and Spain won the race to host the 48-team tournament but Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay were handed the opening three matches.

The decision, which caught even seasoned Fifa watchers by surprise, means that World Cup 2030 will involve teams playing in six countries, each of which will qualify automatically. The World Cup has never been played on more than one continent before and proposals for a tournament to be played over thousands of miles was met with shock by climate groups.

The decision, and the timing, appeared to pave the way for Saudi Arabia to host the World Cup in 2034 and within hours the kingdom unveiled its bid for that tournament. The Saudis had once been expected to lead a bid alongside Greece and Egypt for 2030, only to stand aside earlier this year. Now, with Fifa inviting bids from Asia and Oceania to host in 2034, the Saudi Football Federation said it intends to bid alone.

Fifa settled on the ambitious 2030 proposal at a virtual meeting of its council on Wednesday. It will need to be confirmed in a vote taken by all 211 Fifa members in the final months of next year. “In a divided world, Fifa and football are uniting,” said Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, describing the Morocco, Portugal and Spain bid as “a great message of peace, tolerance and inclusion”.

Fifa is committed to rotating World Cups between confederations and although the Uefa/Caf bid was the favourite for 2030, Conmebol – the South American confederation – has not hosted a World Cup since 2014 and was looking to commemorate the centenary of the first World Cup, held in Uruguay in 1930. Infantino said the first match of the 2030 tournament would be held at the Estádio Centenário in Montevideo, the same venue as the first World Cup.

It is anticipated that Saudi Arabia will not be the only bidders for 2034 with Australia an interested party, perhaps alongside Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country. There may also be a proposal from China, which once set its sights on hosting the World Cup by 2030. But the Saudis, who are spending billions on football through the Public Investment Fund, appear to be in pole position.

Yasser al-Misehal, the president of the Saudi Football Federation, said: “We believe the time is right for Saudi Arabia to host the Fifa World Cup. Our bid is driven by a love for the game and a desire to see it grow in every corner of the world.”

Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince and prime minister, described the bid as “a reflection of the country’s progress in all sectors … the kingdom has quickly emerged as a leading hub and an international destination for hosting major events thanks to its rich cultural heritage, economic strength and the ambition of its people.”

The 2030 announcement was met with dismay by climate groups meanwhile. Earlier this year a Swiss regulator ruled that Fifa misled fans over claims that the Qatar World Cup would be a carbon-neutral event. Freddie Daley of the New Weather Institute, one of the organisations behind the challenge, said the 2030 plans showed Fifa was “continuing to prioritise the growth of the game ahead of the climate”.

“We’re worried by this announcement and how it will be delivered in line with their targets and international targets around driving down emissions”, Daley said. “Football has huge power to bring people on the journey to net zero, but Fifa are saying one thing and doing another. How can we take them at their word, when this tournament will mean more emissions, more flights and more climate damages?”

Carbon Market Watch, whose analysis of Fifa’s claims over Qatar first exposed a gap between rhetoric and reality, said they were waiting to see full details of how the tournament might work. “Fifa’s decision to host the 2030 World Cup across six countries could be, from a climate perspective, a step in the right direction or a recipe for disaster,” a spokesperson said.

“It will all depend on how honestly and how well Fifa tackles the tournament’s carbon and ecological footprint. If the distributed nature of the tournament means that little to no new infrastructure will be built and fans will travel shorter distances more sustainably to attend games only in their country or nearby countries, then this could be helpful. However, if it means even more international and intercontinental travel and even more white elephant infrastructure, then it will be hugely problematic.”

Football Supporters Europe, who this year began a closer working relationship with Uefa, said: “Fifa continues its cycle of destruction against the greatest tournament on earth. Horrendous for supporters, disregards the environment and rolls the red carpet out to a host for 2034 with an appalling human rights record. It’s the end of the World Cup as we know it.”

Source: The Guardian