A prospective Saudi Arabia World Cup is taking football back to a “dark time”, according to Human Rights Watch.

FIFA confirmed on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia is the sole bidder for the 2034 tournament after a process lasting less than a month and with only interest from Asian and Oceanian federations permitted.

While it still needs to be rubber-stamped, probably at FIFA’s Congress late next year, this appears little more than a formality.

In a statement to the PA news agency, Minky Worden, director of Global Initiatives at Human Rights Watch, said: “FIFA awarding the World Cup without any competition or transparent bidding and assessment process takes us back to the dark time for football that delivered the Qatar and Russia World Cups in a corrupt process that led to years of arrests.

“With more than 11 years until the 2034 World Cup, why were all other federations that had previously expressed an interest in bidding to host a World Cup discouraged or disallowed?”

In announcing the bids, FIFA stressed that its dialogue with Saudi Arabia prior to the Congress will include ensuring its human rights obligations are met, but Worden has low expectations.

“The previous due diligence process to assess bids and deal with predictable human rights problems wasn’t perfect – but it existed,” she said.

“FIFA’s human rights policy will be worth less than the paper it’s printed on if Saudi Arabia’s bid goes forward as planned.”

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