MELBOURNE: Saudi Arabia was left as a shoo-in to host the 2034 World Cup after Australia confirmed it would not make a bid for soccer’s global showpiece on Tuesday’s deadline day.
World soccer’s governing body FIFA had invited bids from Asia and Oceania for the tournament by Oct. 31.
Football Australia (FA) boss James Johnson had said the country was “exploring the possibility” of 2034, but on Tuesday the domestic governing body said it would instead focus on bids for the 2026 Women’s Asian Cup and the 2029 Club World Cup.
Australia’s decision not to proceed with 2034 leaves Saudi Arabia as the only confirmed bidder.
Saudi Arabia announced it would bid only minutes after FIFA called for Asia and Oceania bids on Oct 4.
The president of the Asian Football Confederation, the sport’s continental governing body to which Australia belongs, said “the entire Asian football family” would stand united in support of the Saudi bid.
A week after FIFA’s invitation, Indonesia said it was in discussions with Australia about a possible joint bid along with Malaysia and Singapore before saying a week later that it backed Saudi Arabia’s bid.
Australia hosted a successful Women’s World Cup this year but has never hosted a men’s World Cup.
“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,” FA said.
“Achieving this … would represent a truly golden decade for Australian football.”
FIFA awarded the 2030 World Cup to Morocco, Portugal and Spain, also adding World Cup centenary games in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay.
The Sport & Rights Alliance and Amnesty International say FIFA needs to secure clear and binding commitments to improve human rights in countries likely to host the 2030 and 2034 men’s World Cup tournaments to prevent serious potential abuses.
“With only a single bid for each tournament on the table, FIFA may have scored an own goal,” Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Head of Economic and Social Justice said in a statement.
“FIFA must now make clear how it expects hosts to comply with its human rights policies. It must also be prepared to halt the bidding process if serious human rights risks are not credibly addressed.”