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Ukraine to join Spain-Portugal joint bid to host 2030 World Cup

The Spanish government has confirmed it will support the inclusion of the war-torn country into an Iberian project to host the tournament, with the blessing of UEFA

Ukrainian soccer fans during a World Cup playoff game against Scotland.
Ukrainian soccer fans during a World Cup playoff game against Scotland.Robert Perry (EFE)

Spain and Portugal can take a huge step toward securing the rights to organize the 2030 FIFA World Cup if, as reported by The Times, Ukraine joins the Iberian candidacy by offering to stage one of the groups in the preliminary round. EL PAÍS has contacted the Spanish Football Federation and the governing body headed by Luis Rubiales referred to a press conference that is due to take place on Wednesday at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, which will be attended by Rubiales and his Portuguese counterpart, Fernando Gomes. Both executives are UEFA vice-presidents and right-hand men to the organization’s president, Aleksander Ceferin. According to The Times, both the Spanish government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and the Portuguese administration of António Costa have spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and agreed that Ukraine will be invited to join the bid. Sánchez’s office confirmed that it intends to add Ukraine to the Iberian candidacy to stage the 2030 World Cup and that the Spanish government supports the project being proposed by the soccer federations of both countries, which has also received the blessing of UEFA.

Both Spain and Portugal have stolen a march on rival bids by anticipating matters of logistics and organization such as preselecting host cities, before FIFA has even published the bidding documents. The Spain-Portugal joint bid has been based on the requirements FIFA laid out for the 2026 World Cup, which will be hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico. The biggest challenge to the Iberian bid comes from Latin America, led by Uruguay, in what will be the 100th anniversary of the first World Cup, which was held there. Argentina, Paraguay and Chile have all expressed their interest in forming part of a joint bid, which is nonetheless not yet as advanced as the Iberian candidacy. Another more recent bid, which has so far failed to gain much traction, is being formed by Greece, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The addition of Ukraine to the Spain-Portugal joint bid is expected to be the definitive move to swing the pendulum in favor of the Iberian project.

Ukraine forming part of the 2020 World Cup would also be a coup in terms of UEFA’s image and serve to reinforce the European governing body’s position as an organizer of international soccer tournaments ahead of a ruling at the Court of Justice of the European Union regarding the attempted breakaway by a group of the continent’s richest clubs to form a European Super League in direct competition to the UEFA Champions League, which will determine whether UEFA has the right to a monopoly on organizing tournaments. FIFA, which is also involved in the case, has not made any comment on the possible incorporation of Ukraine into the Iberian World Cup bid but it is expected the world governing body will support the move in order to enhance its reputation among the international community following the controversial decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, amid allegations of bribery and vote-rigging.

FIFA has not yet announced the date on which the successful bid for the 2030 World Cup will be announced, although traditionally it would be expected the tournament will be held in Europe or Africa because the 2026 tournament will be staged in the Americas. The selection process now involves the 178 international soccer federations that are members of FIFA, with the voting made public. Previously, it was the remit of the FIFA executive committee to select the hosts, which in the case of Qatar and Russia (2018) led to the FIFA Gate investigation of 2015, headed by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division and resulted in 14 indictments for crimes including money laundering, wire fraud and racketeering.

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