FIFA’s 2030 World Cup plan: another climate disaster in a climate disaster zone

FIFA unexpectedly announced its decision to hold the 2030 World Cup in six countries (Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina) across three continents, with 48 teams participating.

Fossil Free Football founder Frank Huisingh: “We’re football fans and we love the World Cup. We appreciate the fact that the World Cup is an event that travels the world, so local fans can – if ticket prices would allow – see international football stars. As football fans, we also expect FIFA to act responsibly in the middle of the climate emergency that harms football players and fans around the world. We need to urgently reduce emissions. A tournament on 3 continents, in 6 countries and with 48 teams shows that FIFA is still speeding in the wrong direction.”

By 2030, the world will need to have reduced emissions by at least 50% compared to current levels in order to keep warming under 1.5 degrees celsius and the world a liveable place. FIFA committed to this target under the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. Football’s governing body can only reach these targets by massively reducing emissions from (air) travel as well as from the construction of stadiums. 

The plan for this tournament, just like for the 2022 and the 2026 World Cup, does not do that. In fact, it’s yet another step in the wrong direction. For fans following their national teams, it could feature round trips of over 20.000 kilometres. 

This decision, yet again, makes clear that FIFA does not live up to its responsibility as the organisation responsible for the present and future of world football. The climate emergency is impacting players, fans, coaches, referees and everyone else involved in football around the world right now. Extreme heat, floods and bad air quality caused by burning fossil fuels and wildfires make playing football more and more difficult around the world.

In its attempts to monetise every aspect of the beautiful game while disregarding its climate impact, FIFA is all but ensuring the game will increasingly be played in dangerous conditions. The game’s custodian is increasingly becoming one of its greatest threats. Without serious restructuring of the football calendar and tournament organisation FIFA is jeopardising the future of the game.

The 2030 Mediterranean summer won’t allow for football to be played safely

Recent summers have shown extreme heat, drought and wildfires in Spain, Portugal and Morocco. With temperatures hitting as high as 47°C in Spain this summer, it’s very likely that by the summer of 2030 it will simply be too hot for football to be played and for fans to attend safely. The total disregard for the safety of fans and players is another demonstration of FIFA’s inability to shoulder the responsibility of organising football tournaments in a warming world.

A relatively sustainable World Cup is possible

It’s perfectly possible to organise a relatively sustainable World Cup. A limit should be placed on the number of participating teams, existing stadiums and infrastructure should be used and regions with excellent public transportation (or plans to build it) should be selected to host. Moreover, focus should be placed on ticket sales for local fans, limiting air travel. Such a tournament would be much better for local fans, who could finally see international stars play, and would remain an unforgettable experience for fans watching around the world.