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POLITICO: Saudi Arabia’s secret talks with Greece, Egypt to buy World Cup 2030

Saudi Arabia has offered to fully pay for Greece and Egypt’s sports infrastructure costs, for joining its 2030 FIFA World Cup hosting bid. According to the scoop by politico.eu, Mohammed bin Salman personally made the offer of stadiums to Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in a conversation being reported for the first time.

Bin Salman personally told the Greek prime minister that his country would pay for all Greece’s World Cup stadiums, in exchange for joining its bid to host the 2030 World Cup

Saudi Arabia will dip into its bulging coffers to “fully underwrite the costs” of jointly hosting the 2030 tournament with Greece and Egypt. In return, 75 percent of the matches would be held in the Gulf state, a senior official with knowledge of discussions told POLITICO.

The dramatic offer — likely worth billions of euros in construction costs — was discussed in a private conversation between Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in summer 2022, according to a senior official familiar with the matter.

A second senior official with knowledge of private discussions on the bid told POLITICO that Saudi Arabia is prepared to “fully underwrite the costs” of hosting for Greece and Egypt, but 75 percent of the huge 48-team tournament itself would be held in the Gulf state.

It is not clear whether the offer was taken up. But the three countries are now working on a joint proposal to host the 2030 tournament, a move which has triggered a backlash against Greece.

Riyadh’s megabucks offer to Greece, reported here for the first time, will fuel criticism that Saudi Arabia is effectively attempting to use its astronomical wealth to buy the World Cup by creating a trans-continental coalition to cleverly take advantage of the voting system.

In an attempt to persuade the members of football’s world governing body, FIFA, of the virtues of the Saudi-led bid, the proposed tournament would see matches held across three continents, providing geographical balance. A Middle East-only World Cup bid would be unlikely to succeed just eight years after Qatar hosted the tournament in 2022.

The Saudis’ main rivals are a joint Spain, Portugal and Ukraine bid from Europe, and a South American bid from Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile.

The decision on who hosts the 2030 World Cup comes down to a public vote of the entire FIFA Congress, made up of more than 200 member associations from around the globe. If African countries, attracted by Egypt’s presence and Saudi investment around Africa, rally behind the bid, and Asian nations do the same, while Greece siphons off some European votes, the Saudi-led proposal will stand a strong chance of winning, POLITICO reports.

In Athens, Sports Minister Lefteris Avgenakis responded with a tweet speaking of “inaccuracies” in the politico report.

“The Politico article, about the ‘buyout’ of Greece by Saudi Arabia for the 2030 World Cup, is full of inaccuracies. Contacts are being held between the two countries and Egypt, but they are still at an early stage of exploring possibilities for candidacy.”

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