- Eddie Howe’s Newcastle team made several trips to Saudi Arabia
- Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has been questioned by Human Rights Watch
- Listen to the latest episode of the Mail Sport podcast “It’s starting!”
Eddie Howe has voiced his support for a World Cup in Saudi Arabia, suggesting it would be “structurally really good”.
The Gulf state is poised to host the biggest soccer competition in 11 years after Australia – its only rival – withdrew from the race to host the World Cup, leaving Saudi Arabia the sole contender.
The last edition also took place in the Middle East as Qatar welcomed the world to the 2022 competition and Argentina finally lifted the trophy, led by Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.
The tournament now returns to the region after the World Cups in 2026 in the USA, Canada and Mexico and in 2030 in Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Howe – whose Newcastle is owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – has described the Gulf state as a good host, pointing to the impressive infrastructure already in place.
Eddie Howe has predicted Saudi Arabia will be a good host for the 2034 World Cup
Saudi Arabia is the only remaining bidder for the upcoming competition after Australia’s withdrawal (pictured: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman). [right])
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“I really have no idea,” Howe claimed when asked about the prospect of a tournament in Saudi Arabia at a press conference on Tuesday.
“Our trips there and visiting two different places in Riyadh and Jeddah were really two different experiences.”
“Wherever we went it was really well organized and we were well looked after. I think if this is a sign of what a World Cup could look like, then you can be sure that structurally everything will be really good.”
Howe’s Magpies have traveled to Saudi Arabia several times since PIF took over part of the club.
The kingdom was believed to be the main candidate for the host role and had until Tuesday evening to formally express its interest before its bid could be approved by FIFA members at the end of next year.
The kingdom’s human rights record was questioned in a statement by Human Rights Watch, which outlined how the country’s situation had “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 expression of its citizens.
The country is also under scrutiny for its mass executions: on March 12, 2022, 81 people were violently killed for terrorist crimes in the largest mass execution in the country’s history.
Gianni Infantino has come under fire for violating his own organization’s human rights policies
Last year’s tournament came under increased scrutiny due to the human rights situation in Qatar
FIFA President Infantino said only bidders from Asia and Oceania would be considered for 2034
Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, added: “In Saudi Arabia, independent human rights monitoring is not possible due to government repression.” This effectively makes it impossible for FIFA to carry out the ongoing monitoring and monitoring required in its human rights policy Human Rights Inspection.”
Australia – recently co-hosting the Women’s World Cup along with New Zealand – released a statement explaining its decision not to bid for the men’s tournament.
“We have examined the possibility of bidding to host the FIFA World Cup and, taking all factors into account, have concluded 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 world’s oldest international women’s competition, the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2026, and then welcome the best teams in world football for the FIFA Club World Cup 2029.”