The Football Australia governing body has opted out of bidding for the men’s FIFA 2034 World Cup, clearing the way for Saudi Arabia to host soccer's showpiece tournament.
In a statement hours before FIFA’s deadline for declarations of interest, 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 the conclusion not to do so for the 2034 competition.”
The body said it would pursue hosting the Women’s Asian Cup in 2026 and FIFA’s Club World Cup in 2029, adding: “For international tournament hosting, the Australian time zones provide significant opportunities for broadcasters, and we are within touching distance of billions of people in Asia and Oceania, which also helps to provide a strong commercial outlook for competitions.”
It is understood Australia had come under pressure from FIFA not to bid for the 2034 World Cup ahead of today's deadline to ensure Saudi Arabia’s staging of the tournament.
The move comes after the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) announced it was pulling out of its bid to host the same edition, leaving Australia as the only rival to Saudi Arabia.
FIFA had called for nations in Asia and Oceania to bid for the rights to the tournament after announcing that the inter-continental bid from Morocco, Spain, and Portugal had been given the rights to the 2030 edition.
Saudi Arabia then confirmed its bid for the 2034 World Cup earlier this month (October 11).
Within 72 hours of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation declaring its intent to bid for an inaugural World Cup hosting, more than 70 FIFA member associations publicly pledged their support for the kingdom, while the bid has been officially backed by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president, Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa.
Days after pledging their support for the kingdom's bid, the AFC and Confederation of African Football governing bodies both announced Visit Saudi as a commercial partner.
Speaking at the Leaders conference in London (October 18), Bder Alkadi, vice minister at the Saudi Ministry of Sports, stated: “Saudi is aiming to bid for the hosting of the World Cup in 2034. Definitely.”
He continued: “We're proud of what the Qataris have done in delivering an excellent  World Cup, definitely, we want to have this at home, and we want to ensure that we develop our country to host a high-standard event.”
The kingdom has been increasing its influence in the soccer world as of late, with the country set to host the 2023 Club World Cup and the 2027 AFC Asia Cup among others. However, it has been accused of using its financial prowess to launder its alleged human rights abuses, restrictions on women’s rights, and use of the death penalty.
Its latest project has been to bring high-profile players to its domestic league through lucrative contracts and high transfer fees, the latest being Brazilian superstar Neymar.
Alkadi used the country’s World Cup bid as evidence that the country is not just quickly buying a stake in the football world for short-term gain, saying: “If that was a short term, something that hits and run we would not have been for hosting the World Cup.”