On 31 October last year, Fifa confirmed that Saudi Arabia had submitted the only bid to host football’s 2034 World Cup. The bid is a key part of the kingdom’s strategy to become a global force in world football and aligns with its Vision 2030 initiative.
Saudi Arabia’s intention to host the World Cup adds to the growing portfolio of major events that the country will host in the future, which includes the 2034 Asian Games and the 2029 Asian Winter Games on artificial snow. Saudi Arabia is also bidding to host the 2026 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women’s Cup.
Hosting these events will require the kingdom to upgrade existing sporting assets and develop new infrastructure. The most prominent projects will be the stadiums. Experience from previous global events, including the most recent World Cup in Qatar in 2022, has shown how tournaments such as the World Cup can be transformative for a country.
The requirements for hosting the 2034 World Cup include a minimum of 14 all-seater stadiums, of which at least four should be existing structures. The capacity must be at least 80,000 seats for the opening and final matches, and there must be at least 60,000 seats for the semi-finals. For all other matches, at least 40,000 seats are needed.
Saudi Arabia is already upgrading and building stadiums to prepare for hosting the 2027 AFC Asian Cup. In June, the Sports Ministry invited construction firms to submit prequalification documents for contracts to build sports stadiums as part of its SR10.1bn ($2.7bn) capital projects programme.
The schemes are split into four elements. The largest of these are the construction of a new stadium to the north of Riyadh and the upgrade of five existing football stadiums.
The projects will increase the capacity of the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh to 92,000 seats, expand the seating capacity of Riyadh’s Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium to 45,000, increase the capacity of Prince Mohammed bin Fahd Stadium in Dammam to 30,000 seats and raise the seating capacity of Prince Saud bin Jalawi Stadium in Al-Khair to 45,000. New Riyadh Stadium, a sustainable, 45,000-seater venue in the north of Riyadh, will also be constructed.
Advancing stadium projects
Construction activity on other football stadium projects in the country is also progressing. In January, Jeddah Central Development Company selected Beijing-headquartered China Railway Construction Corporation for a contract to build its Jeddah Central stadium project. The construction is expected to start in February and be completed by 2026.
Contractors have also submitted bids for the construction of a new football stadium in Dammam. The bids were submitted on 28 December. The stadium will have the capacity to accommodate 40,000 spectators. The new stadium will be built in the Dammam Sports City area, where the facilities of the Al-Ettifaq FC and Al-Nahda Club teams are located.
Contractors also submitted separate bids for a contract to build the temporary facilities that are required for the construction of the Dammam stadium.
In October, MEED exclusively reported that the Saudi Arabian Football Federation had awarded a contract to the local Al-Osais Contracting for the early works for the Dammam football stadium. The scope includes site preparation, enabling works and basic infrastructure works.
The facility will be used to host international tournaments such as the 2027 AFC Cup and the 2034 Fifa World Cup. The project is being fast-tracked and is expected to be completed by the first half of 2026.
Consultants have also been invited by the Saudi sovereign wealth vehicle the Public Investment Fund (PIF) to bid for a contract to provide project and asset management services for the operation and upgrade of its King Abdullah Sports City Stadium on the outskirts of Jeddah.
The PIF is also seeking contractors to develop a multi-purpose stadium at its Qiddiya entertainment city project on the outskirts of Riyadh. In November, PIF-backed Qiddiya Investment Company issued a tender inviting companies to bid for the main contract to build the stadium. The bids for the main contract were submitted in December.
The PIF has also planned a stadium that will be built 300 metres above the ground between the two buildings that form part of The Line development at Neom. It has featured in Neom’s marketing campaigns.
The next main element of the Sports Ministry’s projects programme is the construction of 30 new training grounds and facilities close to the stadiums that will be used for the 2027 competition.
Construction on the schemes is expected to start in July 2024 and be completed by December 2025. A total of 18 facilities will be ready in time for the 2026 AFC Women’s Cup.
In addition to stadiums, Saudi Arabia will also have to invest in supporting infrastructure such as transportation networks and hotels. For the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, projects including the Doha Metro network and a raft of hotel and resort developments were completed ahead of the tournament.
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