Saudi Arabia World Cup part of global power shift in football, says finance expert

By Sports Desk November 30, 2023

Saudi Arabia's emergence as the sole bidder to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup is no surprise and could be part of a major power shift to affect football in the next few years.

That is the view of sports finance expert Dan Plumley, who also says FIFA will find it difficult to avoid political questions when Saudi oil company Aramco becomes the governing body's highest-paying sponsor.

FIFA confirmed in October that Saudi Arabia was the only country to submit a bid to host the 2034 World Cup before the deadline, making a second tournament in the Gulf a mere formality.

The announcement came less than a year after the 2022 tournament was held in Qatar, a decision which was roundly criticised due to the country's poor human rights record and criminalisation of same-sex relationships. 

Saudi Arabia's bid to host football's most iconic tournament comes after the state's Public Investment Fund took direct control of four Saudi Pro League clubs, attracting big names including Karim Benzema, Neymar and Sadio Mane to a league which already contained Cristiano Ronaldo.

Plumley foresees the country emerging as a football powerhouse over the next decade, with the World Cup playing a major role in that vision.

"I don't think it's a surprise, I think that you can see the power shift, the dynamics changing in world football," he told Stats Perform of the 2034 bid.

"We've obviously seen it off the back of the recent Qatar World Cup, and you could see the narrative of Saudi Arabia's direction of travel with what they're doing with the Saudi Pro League.

"[It's] linked to their Vision 2030 project as a country and how they're trying to pivot away from oil and look at other ways to generate revenue in the future, on top of the World Cup being – alongside the Olympics – the biggest sporting event on the planet. 

"It's quite clear that was always going to be in their sights. I don't see that as any real surprise.

"I think there's a long waiting time now: when you look at the plans they've got for the Saudi Pro League, and couple that with hosting a World Cup, there's a lot of ifs. 

"But we could be looking at a significant power shift in world football in six to 10 years' time."

Just a few weeks after Saudi Arabia emerged as the sole 2034 bidder, it was reported that the nation's state-owned petroleum company Aramco was set to become FIFA's largest single sponsor, which critics have suggested amounts to a conflict of interest.

Asked about the prospective deal, Plumley said: "This is a much wider question around the governance of the sport, and I think you can draw some parallels to the situation in English football with the independent regulator.

"Part of the reason for the independent regulator is because people have not been happy with the Premier League being self-governing, being judge, jury and executioner.

"But that same kind of conversation is happening at UEFA levels, and it's been happening at FIFA levels for a number of years. 

"They are the ultimate governing body of world football. In that regard, it's very difficult to do anything else within the governance framework, because that's where we stop. 

"People will always draw parallels to the companies connected with that, and the way in which event hosting is done, where the World Cups are going and who the sponsors are. 

"There's been numerous conversations about that throughout history, it's now just positioned in a slightly different way because we're in slightly different territory.

"You can't avoid the politics of it, whether we like to or not. It's much bigger now than football and I think that's what you keep coming back to, [the fact that] there's a lot going on in the market that transcends the game on the pitch."

Related items

  • McKenna signs four-year deal to stay at Ipswich McKenna signs four-year deal to stay at Ipswich

    After speculation about his future at the club, Kieran McKenna has signed a new four-year contract at Ipswich Town.

    McKenna took over at Ipswich in December 2021, with the club in League One, and has since led them to back-to-back automatic promotions.

    The Tractor Boys finished the Championship season in second, just one point behind champions Leicester City, to secure Premier League football for the first time in 22 years.

    That feat also earned McKenna the League Managers Association’s Manager of the Year award, as he beat Pep Guardiola to the award.

    Since then, the Northern Irishman has been linked to a move away from Ipswich, with Brighton, Chelsea and Manchester United all thought to be interested in him at some stage.

    After signing his new contract, McKenna told the club website: "I am extremely proud to have signed a new contract with the club.  

    "We have enjoyed incredible success together over the last two seasons and I'm excited to have the opportunity and responsibility of leading this fantastic club into its first season in the Premier League in 22 years.

    "Preparation and planning for the challenge ahead has been ongoing since we won promotion at the beginning of May, with plenty of work still to do before the start of the new season at what is such an exciting time for everyone at the club. 

    "I am so happy to have committed my future to taking the next step with Ipswich Town and am really excited for what's ahead as we continue this journey together.

  • Eriksen and Hojlund named in Denmark's Euro 2024 squad as O'Riley misses out Eriksen and Hojlund named in Denmark's Euro 2024 squad as O'Riley misses out

    Christian Eriksen and Rasmus Hojlund have been named in Denmark's squad for Euro 2024, although there is no place for Matt O'Riley in the 26-player party.

    Eriksen's Euro 2020 campaign was notoriously curtailed after he suffered a cardiac arrest during his nation's opening match against Finland in Copenhagen.

    The midfielder watched on from hospital as the Red and Whites went on to reach the semi-finals, but he will feature again this time around alongside Manchester United team-mate Hojlund.

    However, O'Riley has been left out, despite an impressive season with Scottish Premiership champions Celtic in which he scored 18 goals.

    "It's hard to disappoint someone, these are boyhood dreams that come up short," head coach Kasper Hjulmund told reporters, "[but] I'm very happy with the squad we have."

    Simon Kjaer has also been included, despite a thigh injury limiting the veteran defender's game time with Milan towards the end of the Serie A season.

    "We have a lot of data on him, we have visited him and have it fully under control," Hjulmund added. "He is now in a place where he is completely ready, he is in good physical condition."

  • Bayern Munich confirm shock appointment of Kompany Bayern Munich confirm shock appointment of Kompany

    Bayern Munich have confirmed the appointment of Vincent Kompany as their new head coach.

    Kompany has joined Bayern on a three-year deal, and comes in as Thomas Tuchel's replacement.

    The former Manchester City captain, who began his coaching career in Belgium with Anderlecht, could not keep Burnley in the Premier League in 2023-24.

    Indeed, the Clarets were relegated following a 2-1 defeat to Nottingham Forest at Turf Moor in their penultimate match of the season.

    Yet, less than two weeks after the campaign's conclusion, Kompany has been installed as boss of one of Europe's biggest clubs. 

    The 38-year-old joins Bayern after Tuchel confirmed talks over potentially reversing the decision for him and the club to part ways, which came in February, had ended.

    Bayern lost their last game of the Bundesliga season to finish in third place, having failed to win any of the four trophies they were in contention for, seeing their dominance of Germany's top tier ended by Xabi Alonso's unbeaten Bayer Leverkusen team.

    Alonso had been Bayern's primary target, but their former midfielder has elected to stay at Leverkusen for next season.

    Bayern were also linked with Roberto De Zerbi, who has just left Brighton, and Brentford coach Thomas Frank, while they were turned down by Austria coach Ralf Rangnick. Mauricio Pochettino, who left Chelsea on Monday, was also rumoured as a potential option.

    Kompany, then, is a surprise pick, but Bayern will be hoping he rediscovers the magic touch he had during his first season at Turf Moor in 2022-23, when he guided the Clarets to promotion from the Championship, earning 101 points in the process.

    However, Kompany's possession-based, front-foot approach was badly exposed in the Premier League, with Burnley winning just five games on their way to taking 24 points as they finished 19th, going back down alongside Luton Town and Sheffield United.

    He leaves Burnley having managed 96 games, winning 41 (42.7 per cent) of those matches.

    In a statement, Burnley said they were "initially confident" of keeping Kompany at the club, but claimed "the changing dynamics of the situation made this impossible". 

    "We understand the allure and prestige of a club like Bayern Munich and respect Vincent's ambition to explore new opportunities," the statement continued. 

    "We wish only the best for Vincent and would like to put on record our appreciation for his dedication every single day he was a part of this football club. 

    "Our priority remains the stability and success of Burnley, and we will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure that our ambition is realised, namely our return to the Premier League."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.