Head of Saudi Arabia’s Sports Authority has said it will support a joint bid by the US, Canada and Mexico to host 2026 football World Cup, a news report has revealed.
According to a Bloomberg report, Morocco, the only other contender, solicited Riyadh’s support a month ago but by then “we had given our word to the Americans,” Turki Al Alshikh, head of the Saudi Sports Authority, said in an interview with Bloomberg.
“We balance issues, and in the end, we go with the interests of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said. FIFA is to elect the host country on June 13. “The United States is one of the oldest and most powerful allies of Saudi Arabia. They have knocked on our doors since 2017. They asked us for help and we responded to their file and reviewed it,” he said.
“Our brothers in Morocco asked us to help in this regard only a month ago, and we had promised the Americans, so we will vote for the United States,” he said.
“On the personal level, I have already said that and I will say it again. One of the best tournaments I have ever seen in my life was the 1994 World Cup in the United States, where the Saudi team achieved the best results. It has a record to this day.”
According to the report, besides putting a new emphasis on sports as a means of public diplomacy, Saudi Arabia is also looking at the industry as an untapped revenue source. It plans to privatize its 16 soccer teams as part of a broader plan to raise funds, and al-Alshikh predicted that could bring in $800 million to $1.5 billion.