Reporter Han Bing reports For the 2034 World Cup, FIFA set the deadline of October 31st for bidding intention. Almost the whole world knows that Saudi Arabia has no competitors. Australia, which was originally considering a joint bid with New Zealand or Indonesia, announced its abandonment on the deadline and turned to bid for the 2029 World Club Cup. There is only one bid for the 2034 World Cup in Saudi Arabia. Although the right to host the World Cup will not be decided until the end of next year, there is no suspense now. Saudi Arabia became a "single bidder" for the 2034 World Cup.
FIFA President infantino issued a statement on November 1st, announcing that the 2034 World Cup would be held in Saudi Arabia, just as he had previously confirmed that the six countries would host the 2030 World Cup. Saudi Arabia announced its comprehensive plan to bid for the 2034 World Cup just 65 minutes after the official announcement of FIFA. Infantino’s operation this time is exactly the same as Blatter’s bid for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Even, infantino is more out of line than Blatter: Blatter had to go through the voting process of multi-party bidding at least that year, and infantino directly persuaded other bidders through behind-the-scenes mediation, turning the bidding into a mere formality.
The behind-the-scenes operation of the right to host two consecutive World Cups began on October 4th. Most of the 211 presidents of FIFA’s football associations who originally had the right to vote did not know that someone had made a decision for them. The World Cup bidding process, which should have been voted at the end of next year, has been artificially accelerated, and it is entirely through the mediation of FIFA executives with the bidding parties. According to an anonymous executive, this is only a "quite elegant solution", but it is an undisguised behind-the-scenes transaction. Like FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, FIFA executives "presented" the World Cup to the most generous countries to FIFA.
On October 4th, FIFA suddenly announced that October 31st was the last deadline to put forward the intention to bid for the 2034 World Cup. Because the time is too short, the possibility of other bidders being shortlisted is almost ruled out. When Australia hesitated to bid with which country, infantino also tried to persuade Australia to give up. He made a speech to the presidents of AFC’s associations, hoping that AFC would "unite to prepare for the 2034 World Cup", and the implication was clear at a glance. The FIFA Council, composed of 37 football associations, decided in advance the host countries of the 2030 and 2034 World Cups, and the latter should have been submitted to the FIFA General Assembly at the end of next year for voting by 211 football associations.
FIFA violated its own rules of the game, making the FIFA General Assembly’s vote on the right to host the World Cup a decoration. After Blatter’s corruption scandal, infantino made a more transparent and open commitment, and the voting for the right to host the World Cup was expanded from the Executive Committee (24 members) to all members (211 members). However, in June 2023, when many bidders were ready, FIFA suddenly postponed the bidding process for the 2030 World Cup. Infantino used this time to complete behind-the-scenes mediation: the Centennial World Cup merged with two bidders to host in six countries, and the 2034 World Cup was locked in Saudi Arabia.
How the bidders for two consecutive World Cups compromised, who participated in the negotiations, and why the bidding process for the 2034 World Cup suddenly accelerated are unknown. Negotiations have been carried out in a small scope since this summer, and even the Chilean Football Association, one of the South American joint bidders for the 2030 World Cup, has been excluded from the negotiations. It was not until FIFA officials announced that South America would host three World Cup group matches that the Chilean Football Association realized that it had been "abandoned".
However, the bid for the 2026 World Cup strictly abides by the bidding and voting process established by FIFA. Including the initial screening, it is determined that at most three bidders will enter the final bidding process, and all FIFA Football Associations will vote to decide the organizers. Behind-the-scenes mediation in the bid for the 2030 and 2034 World Cups is exactly the same as the host selection model of the summer Olympic Games in recent years. The International Olympic Committee has turned the competitors who bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games into a win-win situation: Paris and Los Angeles won the right to host the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympic Games respectively, so as to avoid making the bid a high elimination rate bid that "produces more losers and wastes more and more bidding funds".
Infantino, president of FIFA, also said that the early determination of the organizers can ensure the internal harmony and rotation principle of continental FIFA, and also provide a more controllable and strategic choice in business and operation. The media will question the close relationship between infantino and Saudi Arabia, which may lead to injustice and corruption. However, in addition to rigid political criticism, many sports observers also believe that the 48-team World Cup has caused the host country’s hosting cost to surge, and behind-the-scenes mediation has locked in bidders with more willingness to host and economic strength, which is a more efficient way for FIFA and countries with bidding intentions to generate higher commercial returns. In short, today’s World Cup bid is basically a process, completely behind-the-scenes negotiations.
The 2027 and 2031 Women’s World Cups may also produce the host country in this way. South Africa, Brazil and the United States/Mexico will bid for the 2027 Women’s World Cup, and the United States/Mexico will be awarded the right to host the 2031 Women’s World Cup, so as to reduce the failure cost of the bidders and improve the commercial return. It is likely that the World Cup will no longer be a bid, but the host country will be decided through "negotiation".