It’s the kind of news that makes players who want to play in the 2034 World Cup swoon. Saudi Arabia, the de facto host of the 2034 World Cup, has left the door open to hosting the tournament in the middle of summer.
The British public broadcaster BBC published an interview with Saudi Arabian Sports Minister and royalty Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Saud on Monday (Aug. 8), in which he discussed the possibility of hosting the 2034 World Cup.
In the interview, Prince Al Saud responded to the possibility of hosting the World Cup in the summer by saying, “We are not sure yet, but we are considering the option of hosting it in winter.”
“During the hottest months of the year, average temperatures in Saudi Arabia soar into the 40s and reach as high as 50 degrees,” the Mirror reported, making summer hosting a very difficult option for the kingdom. When asked by the BBC about the practicalities of hosting in the summer, Al Saud said, “I hope we can find a way (to host in the summer),” adding, “We will try to make it the best World Cup ever.”
However, there are many obstacles to a summer World Cup. The last World Cup, in Qatar in 2022, was not held in the summer, but in the winter. At the time, Qatar announced that it would host the tournament in the summer, using fully air conditioned stadiums, but soon after the bid was awarded, the country was told that the plan was unreasonable and eventually switched to winter, which kicked off in mid-November.
According to Crown Science, which measures average temperatures around the world, there is not much difference between Qatari and Saudi summer temperatures. June and July are the hottest months, with an average temperature of 42.5 degrees in Qatar and 40 degrees in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, it’s hard to see Saudi Arabia hosting a World Cup summer.
Nevertheless, the Saudis appear to be “serious” about hosting the World Cup in the summer. “Why don’t we look at the possibility of hosting it in the summer,” Al Saud said in an interview, “It doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter. The important thing is that we are able to organize a game of World Cup quality,” he said in an interview, adding that a summer World Cup is a serious possibility.
Last month, the head of Saudi Arabia’s professional soccer federation, Yasser Al-Michel, also said that the country was looking into hosting the tournament in the summer.
The Mirror reported, “Last month, Al-Micahal said at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) awards ceremony in Doha, Qatar, ‘There are many new technologies that can reduce the temperature. We can put air conditioning in stadiums,’ he said, adding that ‘there are several places in the kingdom that have a comfortable climate in the summer.'” He argued that whether Saudi Arabia hosts in the summer could be important for several national teams.
However, the Saudi royal family and the soccer federation’s stance is far from the reality on the ground.
According to the Mirror, Saudi professional league matches are often held at night, even in winter, to protect European superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar. Even in the coldest winter months, the heat is so intense that it’s impossible to play soccer in the summer, which is why the Saudi league season only runs from August to the following May. There are no games in June and July, the hottest months.
Given the fact that the World Cup ends at the end of the season so that it doesn’t overlap with the professional league season, and that it takes place over a month in June or July, it would be difficult to organize a summer World Cup.
Meanwhile, the 2034 World Cup in Saudi Arabia has been controversial from the start.
Despite rules requiring each World Cup to rotate between continents, FIFA’s announcement that the 2030 World Cup would be a tri-nation tournament, with South America, Europe, and Africa combined, has raised questions about the organization’s integrity, with suspicions that the tri-nation tournament paved the way for Saudi Arabia to go it alone in 2034.
The 2034 World Cup in Saudi Arabia has also been criticized for “sportswashing” – the practice of using big sport to mask human rights issues in the country. In many ways, it’s a high-profile World Cup.