According to a story by the New York Times, Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as a growing influential power in the FIFA world, and could have a significant impact on matters such as the 2026 World Cup vote.
Written by London-based journalist Tariq Panja, the New York Times story talks about how Saudi Arabia has positioned itself as a massive financial backer of numerous FIFA projects, and as a result, has growing power within the organization, not just as a benefactor but also as a leader of other countries in the Middle Eastern region.
Saudi Arabia’s financial influence stems from a pair of projects the country has backed, including the 24-team league for clubs across Europe. They are also involved in the proposal of a second, unnamed tournament. The report states that the increase in focus on soccer for the country is part of a larger-scale goal to diversify away from oil as the country’s main source of income.
By financially bankrolling these new potential ventures, Saudi Arabia has grown in influence across the region, leading to the formation of the South West Asian Football Federation, a group of 10 countries that will be based in Jeddah and led by Adel Ezzat, the president of the Saudi Football Federation. This group could carry serious weight in the upcoming 2026 World Cup election if they decide to vote as a bloc.
As a result, the report states that members of the 2026 North American World Cup bid, including US Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro, traveled to Saudi Arabia “recently” to make a pitch to the group.
However, plenty are opposed the the governments of any country getting involved as financial investors or decision makers of any FIFA matters. Nevertheless, the country is doing its best to position itself within FIFA to not only gain influence but secure financial investments in the sport.