Saudi Arabia presents venues ahead of 2027 Asian Cup decision

Saudi Arabia’s hopes of staging the 2027 AFC Asian Cup are picking up pace with Asian Football Confederation (AFC) delegates currently inspecting proposed sites for the international football tournament.

Saudi Arabia has identified 10 stadiums across the three cities of Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah as host venues. The Riyadh Stadium, the Dammam Stadium and the unique Qiddiya Stadium will be three additions to existing venues.

A decision on the hosts of the continental championships is expected in 2022 having been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The other countries in the running against Saudi Arabia are Iran, Qatar and India.

The visiting party began the Saudi tour on Saturday in capital city Riyadh at the King Fahad International Stadium, which is being expanded from 58,000 to 80,000 capacity. They then viewed King Saud University Stadium (Mrsool Park), which was opened in 2015 and renovated in 2020.

The delegation was able to see the nation’s security system in place, in particular crowd management during sporting events by visiting the ‘911’ emergency centre, where the team provided a presentation about security plans during the competition, if Saudi Arabia wins the bid file.

“As part of the visit, the AFC delegation had also inspected the hospitality services currently in place and their corresponding plans for hosting AFC 2027 for all event delegations including official delegations, national teams, media, fans. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been experiencing growth and development in the last few years,” a spokesperson said.

The expansion of the King Fahad International Stadium, designed by Populous, will involve removing the running track, lowering the pitch and adding a new lower tier. Additionally, new upper west stand tiers will be added either side of the Royal Box.

The most ambitious and eye-catching project is the Qiddiya Sports Stadium, which is a unique three-sided stadium located on the very edge of a cliff looking out over a new entertainment district. The project was covered by TheStadiumBusiness in 2019.

The Populous-designed stadium, due to be completed in 2023, features a dramatic sculptural roof structure hovering slightly above the surrounding rock. The underside of the roof reflects the landscape in which it sits and appears as a mirage within the desert.

Qiddiya Sports Stadium has a 22,000 seat capacity arranged around three sides of a football pitch. The seating bowl features an upper and lower tier for general admissions spectators and a mid-tier for VIP and commercial hospitality. It is located in the new sports and entertainment district of Qiddiya just 50km to the west of the city of Riyadh.

A spokesperson said: “Qiddiya Sports Stadium design has been inspired by local landscape and art, and historic architecture, and influenced by the topology and geology of Qiddiya. The stadium is buried within the natural topography and uses natural rock formations to funnel spectators towards the stadium.”