SAUDI ARABIA are considering joining forces with a European country in a bid to host the 2030 World Cup, according to reports.
And The Athletic claims the Middle Eastern nation is eyeing Italy as a possible partner in a move that could see both countries rivalling a bid from Britain and the Republic of Ireland.
Should the oil-rich state succeed in creating an official team-up with the Euro 2020 champs, it will come as a further knock to Britain and Ireland’s dream of hosting the tournament in nine years’ time.
SunSport reports the joint bid for the two nations has already been marred by the chaotic and violent scenes that preceded the Three Lions Euros final duel with the Azzurri.
Ticketless thugs were seen pushing through barriers and shoving spectators and stadium staff at Wembley ahead of England’s historic clash with Italy.
And 1966 World Cup winner Geoff Hurst is among the influential football figures who fear the incident could harm England’s and the Republic of Ireland’s hosting chances.
Although joint bids have previously been off-putting to football’s authorities, it is reported they are now seen as a useful option given the increase in World Cup entrants.
From 2026 the number of countries competing in the contest will rise to 48 teams with tournament fixtures increasing to 80.
The Athletic claims US firm Boston Consultancy Group is providing guidance to Saudi Arabia on its bid and is reportedly advising them to consider broadening their alliances.
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And it is reported that one option for consideration is for Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s state to join up with Egypt and Morocco to host the contest.
However, it is thought that such a partnership would be a massive challenge in terms of logistics and security.
And a European partner such as Italy – who have already hosted four large-scale international football tournaments in the past 90 years – is thought to be a safer option.
The Athletic adds that the potential of the Saudis investing in the revamp of Italy’s stadiums could be a bonus.
The two nations are reported to enjoy a warm sporting relationship with Saudi set to host the Italian Super Cup in January 2022.
And the country has hosted the contest – which is a match between the Serie A champions and Italy’s cup winners – twice in the past.
However, Saudi Arabia’s human rights records could see a joint bid overshadowed by controversy.
The country made headlines worldwide following the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
And it has faced criticism for its involvement in a catastrophic civil war in Yemen.
The nation is also thought to hold considerable diplomatic sway as the largest exporter of oil in the world.
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