OLIVER HOLT: Money matters to FIFA. And money doesn't just talk when the Saudis get involved, it shouts from the rooftops

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There was still a residue of outrage successful nan guidance erstwhile nan 2034 World Cup was handed to Saudi Arabia connected Tuesday. There were still bully group who raged against nan machine. Most of all, though, location was sad, grim resignation.

As soon arsenic it had go clear nan Saudis wanted to big nan tournament, everyone knew it was a done deal. With FIFA, money is nan only point that matters. And money doesn’t conscionable talk erstwhile nan Saudis get progressive pinch sport. It shouts from nan rooftops.

It buys everything and everyone. It was instructive past week to spot nan formed of all-time awesome fighters nan Saudis corralled to be nan ‘Battle of nan Baddest’ betwixt Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou successful Riyadh. It felt for illustration each boxer who had ever won a loop was there. It was different workout successful excess.


If location is immoderate consciousness of relief, it is that we will astatine slightest beryllium spared nan grotesque show of venality that usually accompanies a World Cup bidding process. This time, FIFA haven’t moreover bothered pinch a vote. They put blinkers connected and followed nan money-trail.

It was absorbing to spot that Eddie Howe, nan Newcastle United head who usually pleads ignorance connected thing to do pinch nan kingdom that pays his wages, felt sufficiently informed to connection an sentiment connected nan gladsome tidings astir nan 2034 tournament.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino, left, has overseen nan awarding of nan 2034 World Cup to Saudi Arabia

All-time awesome boxers were brought to Saudi Arabia for Tyson Fury's bout pinch Francis Ngannou

Newcastle leader Eddie Howe said Saudi Arabia would guarantee everything is 'structurally good'

‘You tin remainder assured that everything will beryllium structurally really good,’ Howe said, which was cheering. Howe mightiness beryllium England head by then, of course. He mightiness moreover beryllium nan Saudi head fixed nan grade of his fealty to nan cause.

There will, of course, beryllium issues surrounding nan disruption of nan European leagues by nan logistical challenges posed by different wintertime World Cup. The Premier League and nan remainder will conscionable person to suck that up. We ne'er salary excessively overmuch heed to nan disruption summertime World Cups origin to different continents.

But what remains difficult to tummy is FIFA’s continuing blindness to nan truth that a World Cup successful Saudi Arabia intends a World Cup successful a kingdom wherever same-sex relationships are criminalised, women are treated arsenic second-class citizens and quality authorities abuses flourish unabated.

Awarding nan World Cup to Saudi Arabia is not a ballot for change. It is an empowerment of nan position quo. It is simply a reward for its abuses and its repression.

We should not activity to enforce our civilization connected nan Saudis but nor should we beryllium complicit successful nan staging of a tourney successful a state wherever full swathes of nan shot organization will not conscionable beryllium unwelcome but fearful of persecution and punishment.

Saudi Arabia tin finance nan Saudi Pro League and return players from European leagues and effort to bolster attendances and moreover if, to occidental tastes, players choosing to ply their waste and acquisition location successful comparative anonymity seems regrettable, it is simply a individual choice.

Heading to Saudi Arabia for nan World Cup, which is expected to beryllium a world ceremony of nan game, which is expected to beryllium unfastened to all, which is expected to beryllium a showcase for bringing group together done football, is wholly different.

‘The anticipation that FIFA could grant Saudi Arabia nan 2034 World Cup contempt its appalling quality authorities grounds and closed doorway to immoderate monitoring exposes FIFA’s commitments to quality authorities arsenic a sham,’ said Minky Worden, head of world initiatives astatine Human Rights Watch.

Jordan Henderson is among nan European players to person been attracted to Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's quality authorities grounds under Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, left, has been criticised contempt nan influx of sporting events heading to nan nation

The World Cup confirms Saudi Arabia will predominate nan sporting scenery for a decade

‘Saudi Arabia’s appalling quality authorities grounds has deteriorated nether Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s rule, including wide executions, continued repression of women’s authorities nether its antheral guardianship system, and nan sidesplitting of hundreds of migrants astatine nan Saudi-Yemen border.’

The awarding of nan World Cup to Saudi Arabia besides intends that nan kingdom will predominate nan sporting scenery for nan adjacent 11 years. That was predictable, anyway, but this is confirmation. The axis of world athletics is shifting towards nan Middle East and this will accelerate it.

It whitethorn beryllium that nan World Cup is Saudi’s endgame successful its colonisation of sport. But I uncertainty it. It is much apt that different eager projects will precede it and travel it.

What value location will beryllium a Champions League last successful Riyadh successful 2033? What value that Manchester United play Chelsea successful a Premier League lucifer location successful 2035?

What value nan 2035 Cricket World Cup successful Saudi Arabia? What value nan 2035 Ryder Cup successful Jeddah? What value nan 2036 Olympic Games successful Riyadh?

The World Cup will not beryllium nan extremity of Saudi Arabia’s sporting ambitions. It will conscionable beryllium nan extremity of nan beginning.

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