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Saudi Arabia is considering a joint bid for the 2030 World Cup with Italy, which is based over 2,000 miles away from the Gulf country, according to a report. 

The bidding process for that edition of the biggest football tournament in the world is in its very early stages, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirming in March that the United Kingdom and Ireland want to ‘bring football home’ in the summer of 2030. 

By that year, the World Cup will have expanded to 48 teams and 80 matches, meaning the tournament being held in more than one country is deemed as a more encouraging option for FIFA.

According to The Athletic, Saudi Arabia are teaming up with the US-based Boston Consultancy Group to explore a joint bid with several options, though Italy is the most likely candidate despite the huge distance between the nations.

The report says the Saudis have also been advised on a potential three-way hosting with Morocco and Egypt as part of a ‘MENA’ (Middle East and North Africa) bid, but the two other countries would need major infrastructure funding to host the World Cup. 

Saudi Arabia’s influence on the sporting world has been growing in the past few years, after it watched neighbours Qatar win the hosting rights for next year’s World Cup. Critics have, however, repeatedly accused the Saudis of ‘sportswashing’ – spending huge money on hosting sporting events in a bid to boost the country’s reputation despite its poor record on human rights.

Saudi Arabia wants to make a joint bid for the 2030 World Cup with Italy, according to reports

Saudi Arabia wants to make a joint bid for the 2030 World Cup with Italy, according to reports

Saudi Arabia wants to make a joint bid for the 2030 World Cup with Italy, according to reports

Italy, who won Euro 2020 this month, are based around 2,250 miles away from the Gulf state

Italy, who won Euro 2020 this month, are based around 2,250 miles away from the Gulf state

Italy, who won Euro 2020 this month, are based around 2,250 miles away from the Gulf state

Saudi Arabia has spent at least $1.5bn on high-profile international sporting events, according to report from human rights organisation Grant Liberty.

That includes hosting Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight boxing world title rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr in December 2019 as well as a European Tour golf tournament featuring many of the game’s biggest names – the Saudi International – and the Dakar Rally. 

The Saudis also hosted a Formula One grand prix this year for the first time, while the country’s sovereign wealth fund – the the Public Investment Fund – made a failed £300million takeover bid for Newcastle United last year. 

The Premier League failed to approve the bid due to concerns over the links between the fund and the Saudi state, which had the deal gone through would effectively have meant that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the owner of the club. The buying consortium insisted that the PIF was separate from the state and, as revealed by Sportsmail, Bin Salman was so enraged that he warned the Prime Minister on June 27 last year that Anglo-Saudi relations would be damaged unless the buyout was approved.

Bin Salman approved and probably ordered the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, according to a US intelligence report earlier this year.

Saudi Arabia and Italy have also joined forces in the sporting community in recent years, with the Gulf state hosting the last two Italian Super Cup finals – and will do so again this year. 

Italy, who won this summer’s Euro 2020 by beating England in the final, also have the experience of hosting four major tournaments and, while none of them have been in the last 30 years, they did host some of this summer’s European Championship matches.  

Saudi Arabia's influence in the sporting world has grown - it hosted one Anthony Joshua fight

Saudi Arabia's influence in the sporting world has grown - it hosted one Anthony Joshua fight

Saudi Arabia’s influence in the sporting world has grown – it hosted one Anthony Joshua fight

Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman also led a takeover bid for English side Newcastle United

Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman also led a takeover bid for English side Newcastle United

The Saudis are also reportedly considering a three-way bid with Egypt and Morocco for 2030

The Saudis are also reportedly considering a three-way bid with Egypt and Morocco for 2030

Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (left) and the Saudis are also reportedly considering a three-way bid with the much closer Egypt and Morocco for the World Cup (right) in 2030

However, there are still concerns about several parts of Saudi Arabia’s interest in joint-hosting the World Cup – most notably its poor human rights record. 

Bin Salman has made some modernising changes to Saudi society, such as banning child marriage, reducing capital punishment and allowing female drivers.

However, the country’s involvement in the Yemen civil war is another point of contention.

Meanwhile, the four UK nations and Ireland remain confident of creating a successful united bid for the 2030 World Cup, with Mr Johnson and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge at the heart of the early discussions. 

One government source told The Telegraph this week: ‘It will be a proper pan bid. It will be very much us all coming together and putting on a fantastic tournament for the whole world. 

‘I think it will show the power of us working together. It is a fantastic opportunity for us all to come together and deliver.’

UK PM Boris Johnson (right) is plotting a four-nations-plus-Ireland bid for the 2030 World Cup

UK PM Boris Johnson (right) is plotting a four-nations-plus-Ireland bid for the 2030 World Cup

UK PM Boris Johnson (right) is plotting a four-nations-plus-Ireland bid for the 2030 World Cup

But UK's chances of hosting the tournament were damaged by chaos at the Euro 2020 final

But UK's chances of hosting the tournament were damaged by chaos at the Euro 2020 final

But UK’s chances of hosting the tournament were damaged by chaos at the Euro 2020 final

However, the nation’s chances of hosting the popular football tournament were damaged by chaotic scenes at Wembley Stadium during the Euro 2020 final on July 11 – which saw 5,000 hooligans enter the national stadium without a ticket. 

The FA were charged by UEFA for the invasion of the field of play by supporters; throwing of objects by supporters; disturbance caused by supporters during the national anthem; and lighting of a firework by supporters.

The charges come three days after the FA was fined £25,630 for crowd problems, including the shining of a laser pointer at Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel during England’s semi-final win, also at Wembley. 

England and Italy could soon be going head-to-head off the field as well as on it

England and Italy could soon be going head-to-head off the field as well as on it

England and Italy could soon be going head-to-head off the field as well as on it

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