Saudi Arabia is set to host the men’s 2034 World Cup after Australia decided against bidding to stage the tournament.
Football Australia confirmed its decision only hours before Fifa’s deadline for declarations of interest on Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia is the only other nation to bid.
“We have reached the conclusion not to do so for the 2034 competition,” read a statement from Football Australia.
Australia’s governing body says it intends to focus its efforts on hosting the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2026 and the Club World Cup in 2029.
The 2026 World Cup will take place in the US, Mexico and Canada.
Morocco, Portugal and Spain will host the 2030 tournament, with matches also in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Fifa had said the 2034 World Cup would be held in Asia or Oceania, and an Australian bid was regarded as the only potential challenger to Saudi Arabia, which announced its intention to bid shortly after Fifa’s decision.
Despite receiving support from the Asian Football Confederation, Saudi Arabia would likely be viewed as a controversial host.
It has been criticised for its human rights violations – 81 men were executed on one day last year – women’s rights abuses, the criminalisation of homosexuality, the restriction of free speech and the war in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia’s international standing was severely damaged by the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a US-based Saudi journalist who was a prominent critic of the government.
Human rights campaigners say sport is being used by the Saudi government to detract from long-standing reputation issues, a process known as ‘sportswashing’.
Last week Human Rights Watch said: “The possibility that Fifa could award Saudi Arabia the 2034 World Cup despite its appalling human rights record and closed door to any monitoring exposes Fifa’s commitments to human rights as a sham.”
On Tuesday Amnesty International called on Fifa to secure “clear and binding commitments” from Saudi Arabia.
It said: “Human rights commitments must be agreed with potential hosts before final decisions on holding the tournaments are made.
“The best chance for Fifa to obtain binding guarantees to protect workers’ rights, ensure freedom of expression and prevent discrimination linked to the World Cup is during the host selection process – not after the hosts have been confirmed and tournament preparation has begun.”
Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup drew criticism because of its stance on same-sex relationships, its human rights record and its treatment of migrant workers.
Fifa dropped plans for Saudi Arabia to sponsor the 2023 Women’s World Cup following a backlash from co-hosts Australia and New Zealand, players and sponsors, but Saudi Arabia is keen to host the 2035 tournament after forming a women’s team last year.
Like the 2022 men’s tournament, the 2034 edition would almost certainly be held in winter because of extreme heat in the summer, although modernising existing infrastructure rather than building new stadiums would likely make it more environmentally friendly than Qatar.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) completed a takeover of Newcastle United in 2021, and manager Eddie Howe said: “Our trips out there to Riyadh and Jeddah were two very different experiences.
“Everywhere we went was well organised; we were well looked after. If that’s a sign of what a World Cup might look like, structurally it will be really good.”
Football Australia chief executive James Johnson said bidding for the World Cup was “not going to be favourable to Australia”.
He said: “Saudi is a strong bid. They have a lot of resources, and not just [for] the 2034 World Cup.
“They are disrupting European football paying higher dollars. This is a disruption in the market and that is what positions Saudi in a strong way. From the government, top down they are prioritising investment in football. That is difficult to compete with.”
Beauden Barrett recommits to NZ Rugby until end of next World Cup
All Blacks back Beauden Barrett will play rugby in Aotearoa for the next four years after re-signing with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the Blues until the end of 2027, the year of the next World Cup.
Barrett is currently in Japan playing for Toyota Verblitz but will be eligible for All Blacks selection on return to New Zealand in 2024 and will return to Super Rugby Pacific in 2025.
The 2027 World Cup will be held in Australia.
Barrett said this decision is a reflection of his desire to represent New Zealand.
“It’s a huge privilege to put on the black jersey and one I will never take for granted. I’m still really passionate about playing alongside my brothers Scott and Jordie for Coastal, Taranaki or the All Blacks so looking forward to adding value where I can on my return from Japan. I am also grateful for the continued support from Taranaki, the Blues and New Zealand Rugby.”
Barrett, a 123 Test All Black and two-time World Rugby Player of the Year, made his international debut in 2012.
He has scored 734 points and 43 tries during a career that includes a Rugby World Cup title in 2015.
Debuting for the Blues in 2020 against his former Super Rugby team the Hurricanes, Barrett has played 30 matches in the Blues jersey, scoring 199 points for the team.
NZR chief executive, Mark Robinson, is thrilled Barrett will be continuing to play his rugby in New Zealand.
“Beauden is not just an exceptional player but also an outstanding leader on and off the field. His return is a testament to the strength and appeal of our rugby environment.
“It’s great to have him return next year and be eligible to continue his career with the All Blacks while also lining up for the Blues the following year, contributing to the ongoing success of rugby in New Zealand.”
All Blacks head coach, Scott Robertson said Barrett is a classy player.
“He is the second most-capped All Black back in history for a reason and to have his knowledge and experience in our game is a reflection of his loyalty.”
Blues chief executive, Andrew Hore, said the club were elated to have the star playmaker back in blue.
“Beauden is wonderful to have at the Blues, he’s one of rugby’s good people and treats everyone with respect,” said Hore.
“He’s been a key driver for many of our social projects and community work over the last few years, such as our Covid and flood response, and is someone who’s prepared to share his views in the team environment for the greater good.”
“Any contract extension is when we reflect on a player’s time at the club and in finalising this contract it gave the Blues and Beauden the opportunity to review where we’ve come from and commit to the vision we have for the team and club.”
“We know Beauden feels he has unfinished business here at the Blues and we’re confident he will come back with fire in the belly to take the club forward on and off the field,” said Hore.
Williamson ton keeps Black Caps in first test
Kane Williamson emerged as New Zealand’s saviour for the umpteenth time in his career and compiled a patient hundred to help the tourists finish day two of the opening test against Bangladesh on 266-8.
New Zealand batters struggled against Bangladesh’s spin-heavy attack on a turning track in Sylhet but Williamson batted close to five hours for his cultured 104, which included 11 fours.
His 29th test hundred drew him level with Australia great Don Bradman and India stalwart Virat Kohli.
Captain Tim Southee (one) and Kyle Jamieson (seven) will resume New Zealand’s bid to erase the 44-run deficit when play continues on Thursday in what promises to be a low-scoring contest.
Earlier, Bangladesh were all out for 310 after Southee claimed the last wicket of Shoriful Islam with the first delivery of the day.
New Zealand lost Tom Latham, Devon Conway and Henry Nicholls before reaching the 100-mark but Williamson featured in three half-century partnerships to keep New Zealand in the contest.
Daryl Mitchell (41) and Glenn Phillips (42) made useful contributions while Williamson held up one end.
The top-order batter took a single off Nayeem Hasan to bring up his hundred before left-arm spinner Taijul Islam (4-89) breached his stubborn defence after Williamson attempted a forward defensive shot.
At 253-5, New Zealand looked set to grab the lead but Bangladesh claimed four wickets in the final session to leave the match evenly poised.
Pacific Games: Fiji football team out of gold medal contention after going down 2-0 to Solomon Islands
The National Football team is out of gold medal contention of the 2023 Pacific Games competition after going down 2-0 to Solomon Islands.
They were down 1-0 at half time.
Fiji had scored a goal in the first half however it was disallowed as it was offside.
Solomon Islands will take on New Caledonia in the Men’s football final at 11am this Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Fiji Women’s team will take on Papua New Guinea at 8pm on Friday in the Women’s football final.
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