A Saudi-led bid with Egypt and Greece has been mooted for the 2030 FIFA World Cup ©Getty Images

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Tourism has claimed that the country "does not have an official bid to host the FIFA World Cup", despite being strongly linked to a joint project with Egypt and Greece.

However, it admitted that the country "is always considering to host a number of large sporting events, as part of promoting sport and tourism in the Kingdom in line with [Saudi Vision 2030]".

Saudi Arabia has also proved a destination of note for numerous professional boxing fights, is a Formula 1 Grand Prix host, has carved out influence within esports and has been awarded several multi-sport events.

These include the 2034 Asian Games, next year's World Combat Games, the 2025 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, and the 2029 Asian Winter Games.

A Saudi bid for the 2030 World Cup has long been mooted, although initial reports of a project with Italy failed to materialise.

Egypt and Greece have more recently been viewed as the most likely partners for a reported Saudi-led bid, which would again require matches to be played in the northern hemisphere's winter as is happening for the first time at the ongoing 2022 edition of the World Cup in Qatar.

Egypt's Sports Minister Ashraf Sobhi said in August that work was underway on the three-country bid.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino appears to enjoy a friendly relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, watching Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk defend his heavyweight boxing world titles against Briton Anthony Joshua in Jeddah earlier this year alongside the de facto Saudi leader.

For the second consecutive men's World Cup, the Italian official watched the opening match between Qatar and Ecuador earlier this month alongside the authoritarian leader.

It was the Saudi Arabian Football Federation which formally proposed exploring the possibility for FIFA to stage its men's and women's World Cups every two years rather than every four in May 2021, although this idea has lost momentum in light of stiff European and South American opposition, and Infantino distanced himself from the proposal at this year's Congress.

Reports have strongly linked Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo to a lucrative move to Saudi club Al Nassr after leaving Manchester United, a move which would underline the country's growing influence within football by attracting one of the game's biggest stars.

Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal admitted in a recent BBC interview that the country hopes to stage the World Cup.

"Why not?

"Who wouldn’t want to host the World Cup?

"We host a lot of events in the region."

Qatar is staging the ongoing 2022 FIFA World Cup, the first time the tournament has been held in the Middle East ©Getty Images
Qatar is staging the ongoing 2022 FIFA World Cup, the first time the tournament has been held in the Middle East ©Getty Images

However, a Ministry of Tourism statement yesterday insisted it "does not have an official bid".

This year's World Cup in Qatar has been marred by criticism over the host nation's treatment of migrant workers and policies on homosexuality and women’s rights, and a number of protests have taken place alongside the hosting of the tournament.

Qatari officials have criticised coverage of the World Cup, and in an extraordinary pre-tournament press conference, Infantino accused "Europeans and the Western world" of "hypocrisy".

Similarly to Qatar, critics have accused the Saudi regime of sportswashing and seeking to distract from its record on human rights, including the state-ordered assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, its role in the bombing in Yemen, harsh restrictions in place on women's rights and its use of the death penalty.

A South American bid from Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay and European project featuring Spain, Portugal and Ukraine are among the other proposals for the 2030 World Cup.