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Saudi MBS offers to build stadiums in Greece, Egypt if they join World Cup bid

Mohammed Bin Salman, Prime Minister and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia [Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency]
Mohammed Bin Salman, Prime Minister and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia [Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency]

Saudi Arabia has offered to pay for new football stadiums in Greece and Egypt in return for their alliance in jointly bidding to host the 2030 World Cup.

According to the news site, POLITICO, an anonymous senior official familiar with the matter told it that Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in the summer of 2022, privately discussed with Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis the offer to pay for his country's and Egypt's stadiums if they supported a joint bid to host the games in seven years.

Riyadh is prepared to "fully underwrite the costs" of hosting for Athens and Egypt, another senior official revealed. The condition for such an offer, though, apart from supporting the bid, is that Saudi Arabia will get to host 75 per cent of the games, with the remaining able to be hosted by the two co-hosts.

The joint bid between the three friendly countries is in competition with a joint European bid by Spain, Portugal and Ukraine, and a joint South American bid by Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile. The window for bids opened in June last year, and the decision on the tournament will be voted on by the 200-member FIFA congress in 2024.

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If such a Saudi-led alliance does win the vote, it would plan to hold the matches across the three countries and their respective continents in an effort to provide geographical balance. Despite the Gulf Kingdom hosting the majority of the matches, that strategy aims to give the impression that it is not solely focused in the Middle East, as Qatar's own hosting of the games took place last year and was subject to fierce debate.

There has not yet been any confirmation on whether the two countries have agreed to Saudi Arabia's offer, and the status of the proposed joint bid remains unclear, but it is estimated that such an endeavour taken by Riyadh to construct the stadiums would cost billions of dollars.

The project and alliance would only add fuel to existing criticism of Saudi Arabia's alleged use of 'sportswashing', which critics and activists say is the Kingdom's method of purchasing international sporting rights, clubs and tournaments to cover up its poor human rights record.

It is also expected to lead to condemnations of the Gulf state using its huge wealth to effectively buy the World Cup through the creation of a trans-continental coalition to take advantage of the voting system.

READ: What investing in sports really means to Saudi Arabia

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