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Singapore strong ‘host’ candidate for joint 2034 World Cup finals bid

SINGAPORE — The possibility of a World Cup being held in Singapore has been reignited after Indonesia confirmed a proposal to lead a South-East Asian consortium to bid for the 2034 edition.

SINGAPORE — The possibility of a World Cup being held in Singapore has been reignited after Indonesia confirmed a proposal to lead a South-East Asian consortium to bid for the 2034 edition.

This was brought up at an Asean Football Federation (AFF) council meeting in Vietnam earlier this month, according to Joko Driyono, the vice-president of Indonesia’s football association (PSSI).

“It is time that South-east Asia hosts the World Cup and the progressive growth of Asia, especially South-east Asia, brings an optimism for us,” he told AFP, adding that the bid will be officially endorsed in the (AFF) council meeting in Bali in September.

AFF general secretary Dato Azzudin Ahmad did not respond to TODAY’s phone calls, but responded with a text message that said: “Please contact Indonesia directly. Thank you.”

In response to TODAY's queries, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said: "We have not had any preliminary discussions with PSSI, the Indonesian FA, regarding a joint World Cup bid.

"It is an interesting proposition and there are a lot of factors to consider. We look forward to engaging with PSSI to explore the possibility of such a bid."

James Walton, the Sports Business Group Leader at Deloitte Singapore & South-East Asia, believes that Singapore will be one of the prime candidates to be a host city in such a proposal.

“If you were trying to make an attractive bid that appeals to all the sponsors, international travellers and has the necessary amenities, you’d be looking at Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Bangkok as the kind of major hub cities you’d be trying to play football in,” he told TODAY.

The Football Association of Thailand’s deputy CEO, Benjamin Tan, confirmed to TODAY that the association has “put in their interest to bid and co-host” with Indonesia and believes the joint-bid can be pulled off.

“With a population of almost 650 million, which accounts for almost 10 per cent of the world’s population, it does make sense for one of the most populous and football-crazy regions to host the World Cup,” he added.

“Whether it’s one, three or more countries, the interested bidders should be enthusiastic and ready to host, as there will be many challenges.

“With a proper plan and support from the relevant authorities, who will be key to bringing the world-class game into Singapore, it can be a possibility for Singapore to host.”

However, Walton cautioned that the expansion from 32 teams to 48, which will be in place from 2026 onwards, is a catch-22 situation.

While it would make it more “palatable” for Asean hosts – who would otherwise be highly unlikely to qualify – to be automatically included, it also means there is a need to establish new facilities to accommodate the sheer volume of participants as well as spectators over 80 matches.

“In all the cities mentioned, the current footballing infrastructure is confined to one or two stadiums and the long-term sustainability and feasibility of building more than that would make it more problematic,” he said.

“Here in Singapore, how many stadiums do we have that could host the World Cup? The answer is one (National Stadium). Do you really want to build another one? What would you do with it (after the tournament)?

“If you look at Thailand, outside of Bangkok, you have nothing. Philippines, outside of Manila, Malaysia, outside of Kuala Lumpur… you’d (probably) have to do it with about eight countries (instead of two to three).”

The likes of China, Australia or a joint bid from the two Koreas would also be stiff opposition for a South-East Asia one if they wanted to throw their names in the hat, Walton added.

The idea of a combined Asean bid had been mooted as early as January 2011, where then-FAS president Zainudin Nordin said in a statement that the proposal for the 2030 edition had been made at an Asean Foreign Ministers meeting. Zainudin then reiterated that it was still a “target and goal” on air during Indonesian television show BICARA in 2013.

Earlier this February, the Myanmar Football Federation (MFF) said that a joint bid from Asean had been discussed during a visit by Fifa chief Gianni Infantino to Yangon.

In a visit to Singapore in December last year, Infantino had told media that he was in favour of having more than one host for future editions of the World Cup. The United States, Mexico and Canada are planning to mount a combined bid for the 2026 event.

“Why shouldn’t we allow three countries to join forces, each with four stadiums ... more countries would (then be able to) participate in the dream of hosting at least one part of the World Cup,” the Swiss-Italian said.

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