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Saudi Arabia ‘plotting joint bid with Italy for 2030 World Cup’ as England’s hopes are on the rocks after Wembley crowd trouble

Saudi Arabia ‘plotting joint bid with Italy for 2030 World Cup’ as England’s hopes are on the rocks after Wembley crowd trouble
Saudi Arabia appears to be on the brink of launching a joint bid with Italy to host the 2030 World Cup, in news which could be a crushing blow to England's hopes of their own quest to hold the event with the Republic of Ireland.

The bidding process for the 2030 edition of the World Cup remains in its halcyon stages but UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in March that a joint bid between England and the Republic of Ireland is likely – although it is understood that the crowd violence that marred Sunday's Euro 2020 final between England and Italy has been a significant blow to the joint bid's hopes.

But according to a report in The Athletic, England's potential loss might be to the benefit of Saudi Arabia amid reports that the Gulf nation has formed an exploratory body to explore a list of candidates who may be able to form a joint bid – with Italy said to be the early frontrunners despite the 2,250 mile distance between the countries.

The report also indicates that Saudi Arabia are also exploring a bid alongside Egypt and Morocco for the 2030 tournament, which will be expanded to 48 teams. It is thought that those countries' stadium infrastructure would need significant development before any bid is considered realistic. 

News of the prospective plan is seen as the latest step in what seems to be a campaign by the country to insert itself as a major global presence in the sporting world, and comes after similar moves were made in the worlds of Formula 1 racing, professional wrestling and top-level professional boxing. 

However, critics have railed against the Saudi Arabia's interjection into world sport, claiming that the plans represent "sports-washing", or the laundering of a country's reputation by holding high-profile sporting events – with many citing their often-criticized human rights record, as well as accusations that women are treated as 'second class citizens'.

The country's leader, crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, has taken some steps to change Saudi rules related to child marriage, capital punishment and allowing women to become drivers.

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Any bid between Saudi Arabia and Italy would come as part of an existing sporting relationship between the two nations, with Saudi Arabia set to host the Italian Super Cup final for the third time in succession this year.

England's bid with Ireland, however, is thought to be in danger after last weekend's scenes at Wembley which saw 2,500 ticketless fans, later described by The FA as "drunken yobs", storm the gates and cause several violent incidents in and around the famous stadium.

It was the second game in succession featuring England at Wembley for which the Three Lions were subject to a UEFA investigation due to crowd trouble.

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