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Australia opts not to bid for 2034 World Cup in boost for Saudi Arabia hopes

Australia has decided against bidding for the 2034 Fifa World Cup, paving the way for Saudi Arabia to host the tournament. Football Australia issued a statement on Tuesday hours before Fifa’s deadline for declarations of interest confirming it would not lodge a bid.

“We have explored the opportunity to bid to host the Fifa World Cup and – having taken all factors into consideration – we have reached the conclusion not to do so for the 2034 competition,” an FA statement read.

FA reiterated its interest in hosting the Women’s Asian Cup in 2026 and the 2029 Club World Cup.

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“For international tournament hosting, the Australian time zones provide significant opportunities for broadcasters, and we are within touching distance of billions of people in Asia and Oceania, which also helps to provide a strong commercial outlook for competitions,” FA said.

Australia had been issued indirect warnings by some of football’s most powerful administrators not to bid for the 2034 men’s World Cup ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.

A growing international bloc had thrown its weight behind a Saudi Arabia bid since Fifa announced the process for the 2034 tournament earlier this month. The tournament in 11 years will be hosted by a country in the Asian confederation, of which Australia is a part.

Within hours of Fifa’s announcement, Saudi Arabia issued its declaration of interest, and the president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, expressed his support for the country’s bid soon after.

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Since then various federations have issued public statements of support, including Australia’s neighbour Indonesia. The AFC held its extraordinary congress where associations including Japan, Uzbekistan and India backed the Saudi bid.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino addressed the same meeting and called for “unity” among members. “You have a responsibility in this respect, you play an important role in this unity of the world, so I count on you in this respect,” he said.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has declared it now has support from over 100 of Fifa’s 211 member associations, which will vote to determine the host next year if a second bidder does emerge.

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Japan Football Association executive Tsuneyasu Miyamoto told the AFC meeting his country had a plan to host the World Cup by 2050, “but now it’s time for Asia to get united and make a single bid from Asia”.

He also noted that Australia had benefited from Asian solidarity in the past. “We were bidding for Fifa women’s World Cup [in 2023] and at the very last stage Japan withdrew for the bidding to make one bid from Asia after various talks with relevant parties. As a result Asia won the bid and we saw the greatest success of the Fifa Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this year,” he said.

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The deadline for expressions of interest is 5pm Central European Time on Tuesday 31 October, 3am on Wednesday in Sydney.