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Amnesty International warns FIFA over potential Saudi Arabia World Cup bid

Hosting a World Cup in Saudi Arabia would be “virtually impossible” because of its human rights record, Amnesty International has said (Nick Potts/PA)
Hosting a World Cup in Saudi Arabia would be “virtually impossible” because of its human rights record, Amnesty International has said (Nick Potts/PA)

Staging the 2030 men’s World Cup in Saudi Arabia would be “virtually impossible” if FIFA correctly applies its human rights criteria to any bid it makes, Amnesty International has said.

The Middle Eastern country, which has been widely criticised for its human rights record, is reportedly interested in hosting the centenary finals alongside Egypt and Greece.

The Times says consideration is being given to a bid to host the finals, which would be in the winter like this year’s upcoming tournament in Qatar. It would be Saudi’s boldest move into the world of sport yet – following the country’s Public Investment Fund buying a controlling stake in Newcastle last year and the staging of Formula One races and high-profile boxing bouts.

Amnesty insists FIFA must rigorously apply human rights criteria when weighing up any possible bid involving Saudi Arabia, in order to avoid the “mistake” made by its executive committee in 2010 in awarding the 2018 and 2022 finals to Russia and Qatar respectively.

“After the purchase of Newcastle, the staging of the Anthony Joshua fights and the hugely controversial LIV golf venture, it feels almost inevitable that Saudi Arabia will also seek to host the 2030 World Cup as a sort of crowning glory to its sportswashing operations,” Felix Jakens, Amnesty UK’s individuals at risk campaigns manager said in a statement released to the PA news agency.

“Under Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi sportswashing has gone into overdrive at the very time that human rights have deteriorated alarmingly.

Qatar delegates celebrate being awarded the 2022 finals in 2010
Qatar delegates celebrate being awarded the 2022 finals in 2010 (Anthony Devlin/PA)

“If Saudi Arabia becomes an official bidder for the 2030 World Cup, FIFA should avoid the mistakes it made with Qatar and Russia and ensure there’s a rigorous assessment of human rights risks in awarding the tournament to Riyadh.

“As things stand, it’s virtually impossible to see how FIFA can square Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights with its own principles and responsibilities on human rights.”

Neither FIFA nor Saudi Arabia have made any official comment regarding a bid to date.

Spain and Portugal are interested in hosting the finals in eight years’ time, while Uruguay – who hosted the inaugural finals in 1930 – are set to bid alongside Argentina, Chile and Paraguay.

The UK and Ireland had been considering a bid, but have now switched their attention to staging Euro 2028 instead.

The bidding process for the finals has not officially opened.