- Eddie Howe’s Newcastle side have travelled to Saudi Arabia a number of times
- Saudi Arabia’s human rights record was questioned by the Human Rights Watch
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’
The Gulf State is set to host football’s greatest competition in 11 years’ time, after Australia – their only rival bidders – pulled out of the race to host the World Cup leaving Saudi Arabia the sole contender.
The most recent edition was also held in the Middle East with Qatar welcoming the world for the 2022 competition, with Argentina ultimately lifting the trophy, spear-headed by Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.
Howe – whose Newcastle are owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – has tipped the Gulf State to be good hosts, noting the impressive infrastructure in place already.
Eddie Howe has tipped Saudi Arabia to play good hosts to the World Cup in 2034
Saudi Arabia are the only remaining bidders for the upcoming competition after Australia’s withdrawal (Pictured: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [right])
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‘I’ve no idea really,’ Howe claimed when asked about the prospect of a tournament in Saudi Arabia at a press conference on Tuesday.
‘Our trips out there and have been to two different places in Riyadh and Jeddah were two different experiences really.
‘Wherever we went was really well organised and we well looked after so I think if that’s a sign of what a World Cup might look look then you can be rest assured that everything will be structurally really good.’
Howe’s Magpies have travelled to Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions since PIF’s acquisition of a portion of the club.
The Kingdom had been believed to be the lead contender for hosting duties, and had until Tuesday night to express a formal interest, for their offer to then be rubber-stamped by FIFA members late next year.
The Kingdom’s human rights record was called into question in a Human Rights Watch statement, which outlined how the country’s record has ‘deteriorated’ following the ascension of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
The Gulf state severely restricts the rights of LGTQ+ people and women – under the male guardianship system – as well as those of the press, and the freedom of speech of its citizens.
The country has also come under scrutiny for its mass executions: on March 12 2022, 81 people were forcibly killed for terror offences in the biggest mass execution in the nation’s history.
Gianni Infantino has come under fire for breaching this own organisation’s human rights policies
Last year’s tournament received heightened scrutiny due to the Qatar’s human rights record
FIFA president Infantino said only bidders from Asia and Oceania would be considered for 2034
Human Rights Watch’s director of global initiatives Minky Worden added: ‘In Saudi Arabia, independent human rights monitoring is not possible due to government repression. This makes it effectively impossible for FIFA to carry out the ongoing monitoring and inspection of human rights its human rights policy requires.’
Australia – recent co-hosts along with New Zealand for the Women’s World Cup – released a statement explaining their decision not to pursue a bid for the Men’s tournament.
‘We have 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,’ Football Australia said in a statement.
‘Instead, 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.’