Saudi Arabia offered to bear the expenses for the upcoming 2030 FIFA World Cup infrastructure for Greece and Egypt if they agreed to go along with Riyadh’s plan to co-host the event across three continents, a report has revealed.
The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman privately promised Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to “fully underwrite” the infrastructure costs to construct all the football stadiums, but in return demanded to host three-quarters of the matches during the tournament, according to a report published by POLITICO.
The proposal was reportedly discussed between the two leaders during the summer of 2022, when MBS traveled to Athens, which marked his first visit to any EU country as he emerged from a long isolation after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
According to an earlier report, four venues would host games in Greece, namely the OPAP Arena, Karaiskakis Stadium, Nea Toumpa, and the Votanikos, a new stadium for Panathinaikos expected to be ready by 2026.
In 2022, Qatar was the official host of the FIFA World Cup; this reduces the chances for the FIFA Congress to vote for another tournament to be hosted in one of the Persian Gulf countries so soon enough. Therefore, to incur all the spending a country would sustain to host the worldcup, seemed a more practical and realistic option for Saudi Arabia.
Ali Walker, who wrote for POLITICO and released details on the alleged secret deal, predicted that the report would “fuel criticism that Saudi Arabia is effectively attempting to use its astronomical wealth to buy the World Cup by creating a trans-continental coalition to cleverly take advantage of the voting system.”
However, it is not currently known whether Greece or Egypt accepted the offer.
According to critics, Saudi Arabia is actively engaging and investing huge sums of money in “sportswashing” to cover up its human rights records.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), chaired by the crown prince, has been at the forefront of efforts, as in 2021, it took over the English Premier League football club, Newcastle United FC.
Meanwhile, Greece’s conservative government has been slammed by opposition parties after the secret offer by Saudis was revealed.
“We want to find out why Greece is giving away the powerful brand name of a European country that is synonymous with freedom and democracy to Saudi Arabia,” the main opposition Syriza party said in a statement.
The main threat to Saudi Arabia, Greece, and Egypt’s joint World Cup bid is posed by other joint proposals. Spain, Portugal, and Ukraine form one of these bids, as well as a South American joint bid from Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile.