Football Australia announced today that it would not be bidding to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup. In a statement, Football Australia said, “We have explored the opportunity to bid to host the FIFA World Cup and – having taken all factors into consideration – we have reached a conclusion not to do so for the 2034 competition.”

The decision came just hours before the deadline for countries to submit an expression of interest to FIFA. Australia had been weighing up a bid over recent months but ultimately decided against it. Football Australia said it would instead focus efforts on bidding for the 2026 Women’s Asian Cup and 2029 Club World Cup.

The statement said, “We believe we are in a strong position to host the oldest women’s international competition in the world – the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2026 – and then welcome the greatest teams in world football for the 2029 FIFA Club World Cup.”

Saudi Arabia Frontrunner to Host 2030 World Cup

With Australia out of the running, Saudi Arabia is now the host of the 2034 World Cup. Minutes after FIFA announced the bidding process was open earlier this month, the Saudis submitted their expression of interest. The Saudi bid has quickly gathered momentum, with the Asian Football Confederation and over 70 FIFA member associations publicly backing their bid. Saudi Arabia seems to have widespread support across Asia and looks poised to host the second World Cup in the Middle East after Qatar in 2022.

It likely means another World Cup in the winter rather than the traditional summer schedule. Qatar 2022 was moved to November/December to avoid the intense summer heat in the Gulf region. Temperatures in Saudi Arabia are similarly scorching in June/July, making a winter tournament probable. 

Shifting the World Cup to winter again forces major disruption to domestic leagues around the world. They need to halt seasons to accommodate the schedule. However, the general response from the fans after the Qatar 2022 World Cup was positive. Players were closer to peak performance and their conditioning was strong compared to a summer tournament.

However, Saudi Arabia has maintained its intent to host the 2034 World Cup in the summer. The organizing body for the Saudi Arabian bid would also face similar problems as Qatar. While the small nation would minimize travel times in the tournament, Saudi Arabia also raises concerns about human rights violations. That, combined with the heat, makes for more controversy ahead of a World Cup in the Middle East.

Saudi link to Australia’s decision is unclear

It is unclear if Saudi Arabia had any influence in Football Australia’s decision not to bid. Some officials hinted Saudi Arabia warned Australia against bidding. There is no evidence the Saudis strong-armed Australia out of the process. Football Australia maintains it conducted its assessment of whether to bid. The group determined not to proceed after weighing up all factors. There is speculation about backroom deals but nothing definitive.