Quietly, Fifa, the global football body, circulated a raft of changes to how it selects the host of its lucrative Soccer World Cup in future. The changes, which caught the football world by surprise, were quickly approved, and aspirant hosts were given less than a month to express interest.

Faced with an impossible deadline, Australia dropped out the race to host the 2034 event. This left the other contender, Saudi Arabia, in the race, even though the kingdom’s stadiums fall far below Fifa’s normal minimum readiness requirements...

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