opportunity  | 

FAI confirms they are to enter joint bid for Euro 2028 with rest of the UK

It is understood the football associations have changed strategy as they feel they have a good chance of winning the Euro 2028 bid

The redeveloped Casement Park is expected to be the only stadium in Northern Ireland large enough to host matches at the Euro 2028 finals.

Daniel McDonnell

FAI CEO Jonathan Hill says both the Association and the government are 'extremely excited' at the prospect of hosting Euro 2028 on these shores after the World Cup 2030 bid was abandoned.

The five football associations in Britain and Ireland this morning confirmed they had changed strategy, indicating that they had ultimately changed course because they believed they had a better chance of winning the European showpiece.

They say the Euros would offer a similar return on investment with a lower delivery cost.

From the FAI perspective, the news comes on the day that a new 2022-2025 strategy is announced and questions have been raised about the logic of chasing another major tournament when there is so much to fix on the ground.

However, government support is vital to those plans and according to Hill they share the Abbotstown enthusiasm for pursuing this competition in tandem with that - Ireland did win co-hosting rights for Euro 2020 but pandemic restrictions prevented the four Aviva Stadium games from proceeding here.

“Look, obviously, this is more than just a football tournament, in relation to the Irish Government as well, and the first thing to say is we are working hand in hand with the Irish Government in relation to the planning for the bid," said Hill.

“Look, any investment into the bid and into any successful bid also brings a lot of benefits other than just footballing, so social and community benefits, the obvious benefits around tourism, investment in trade, employment and skills and everything that goes with a tournament including in terms of local volunteering.

“The Government is committed to working with us in relation to identifying all the benefits in relation to that, over and above the obvious benefits, and as we’ll say in our strategic vision tonight, we’re looking to use football to inspire the nation and connect communities. Both we and the Irish Government are extremely excited at the possibility of the bid and are working closely together to make sure that we maximise value from it.

“As you say, we’re very much aware of making sure that is a balanced approach overall (in terms of FAI priorities) but the Government is firmly behind this. They see the benefit of hosting major global sporting events and remember the Euros is the third largest sporting event in the world. We share with them their enthusiasm for doing so."

Along with their bid partners in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the FAI needed to make a firm decision this month because expressions of interest for the Euros close in March.

While it was not stated at this morning's event, it appears Spain/Portugal will carry UEFA support for the 2030 World Cup race even though they will have their work cut out to prevent a return to South America.

There is a belief that the 2028 bid can be successful despite the scenes around the Euro 2020 final in London that were damaging.

The UK government still need to fully throw their weight behind this switch, and a number of issues remain up in the air around this bid - not least the issue of whether all five countries would be given automatic spots.

An initial request for expressions of interest was sent out with 24 team tournament in mind although there has been speculation about an increase to 32 teams.

It would be highly unlikely that all five teams would get a pass for a 24 team finals and it's possible the picture would not change in the event of an expansion.

Furthermore, Northern Ireland still do not have a suitable stadium and would have less time to sort it out with the Euros timeframe.

Faced with questions about whether the Casement Park renovation would be necessary to meet criteria, their CEO Patrick Nelson said nothing was ruled in or out and they would need to speak with government. "We're not along for the ride. We want to be a full part of the bid," he said.

Either way, it's thought likely that Dublin hosting a group would be part of the equation with Hill stating that the Aviva Stadium and Croke Park were both in their plans.

"We await to see from Uefa exactly what the bidding process will be in relation to the number of stadia needed. We also need to find out if it’s a 24 or 32 team tournament before we take those decisions. But obviously both Croke Park and Aviva Stadium would be in our thinking," said Hill, who confirmed they were in touch with the GAA around the World Cup concept.

"We talked to them on a regular basis. That was part of the initial discussion. We’ll wait to see what the parameters from Uefa are in terms of stadia number and matches."

English chief Mark Bullingham outlined the official reason for changing course, and also said that FIFA's plans for a biennial World Cup starting from 2028 has not affected the focus - UEFA are opposed to this concept and are pushing ahead with Euros tournament bids as per usual.

"We think it's a brilliant opportunity for the five federations and governments to come together, this is the third biggest sports event in the world and we've got a good opportunity to bring it to our collective countries and make a massively positive impact, the economics are positive, the impact it will have on encouraging people to get out and play football and get active," said Bullingham.

"We had two brilliant opportunities in front of us. One we can clearly see the bidding landscape, the timing and feel we've got a really good opportunity and there's one (World Cup 2030) that has got a lot of uncertainty around it. You assess the economic impact, but you do assess winnability as well in the round. We evaluated both brilliant opportunities and have decided to go for the Euros.

"We've been very clear, as have all of the UEFA countries, that we didn't think that a biennial World Cup in men's or in women's was a good idea. We don't believe they will come to fruition so we are stepping back, we looked at the opportunities in front of us. 2028 is very clear as an opportunity, a very clear timeline and we want to go for it and think it's a brilliant event for all of our federations and all of our countries."

Today's Headlines

More Irish News

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos