Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (MBS), the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, privately promised Greece that his country would pay to construct all the necessary football stadiums if Greece joined Saudi Arabia and Egypt in a joint bid to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup.
In return for funding, Saudi Arabia would host the majority of matches during the tournament.
The proposal was reportedly discussed in a private conversation between the Saudi Crown Prince and the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitstotakis in the summer of 2022. The proposed funding for stadiums and other associated costs would likely be in the billions.
Saudi Arabia’s 2030 FIFA World Cup proposal to Greece
In return, Saudi Arabia would expect to host 75 percent of the World Cup matches. Qatar hosted the World Cup in 2022, and since Qatar and Saudi Arabia are both Gulf states, it is unlikely that the FIFA Congress would vote for another Gulf state host nation so soon after. A joint bid was therefore likely a more attractive and realistic option for Saudi Arabia.
It is not currently known whether Greece or Egypt accepted the offer. However, the three countries are now working on a trilateral bid to host the 2023 tournament.
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.
Criticism and controversy
Greece has already faced criticism for banding together with Saudia Arabia and Egypt for the World Cup bid. Critics have argued that the deal would show a disregard for human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and Egypt by Greece.
Ali Walker, writing for POLITICO, which 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, the trilateral bid might prove popular at the FIFA Congress. The main draw is that the tournament’s games would be played in locations across three continents. This might draw in votes from a diverse grouping of countries that make up the more than 200 football member associations across the world.
African nations might be drawn in to vote for the joint bid by Egypt’s inclusion and prospect of Saudi Arabian investment. Meanwhile, Greece’s participation may attract some European votes.
The main competition to Saudi Arabia, Greece, and Egypt’s 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.