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boss confident FAI chief Hill insists Dublin will host Euros ties with fans present

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It's hoped that seats won't be empty at the Aviva Stadium for next summer's European Championship fixtures. Photo: Sportsfile

It's hoped that seats won't be empty at the Aviva Stadium for next summer's European Championship fixtures. Photo: Sportsfile

It's hoped that seats won't be empty at the Aviva Stadium for next summer's European Championship fixtures. Photo: Sportsfile

FAI CEO Jonathan Hill says that Dublin will not be forced to give up on hosting rights for Euro 2020 and that the city will get to host its four games – but only if some fans are allowed to attend as a precondition set by UEFA.

And Hill is also confident Dublin could get to co-host the 2030 World Cup finals as a “credible” joint bid with the four UK nations is still in play, despite the FAI’s difficulties of the last two years

On-field matters in the association became a bit clearer in the last 24 hours when Stephen Kenny’s seven-week wait to appoint Damien Duff’s successor as coach to the senior side ended, when Chelsea coach Anthony Barry was added to the coaching staff, with Barry retaining his duties at Stamford Bridge.

“The opportunity to work in international football is something I’m thoroughly looking forward to and I’m looking forward to working with manager Stephen Kenny, his staff and the squad. I’d also like to thank Chelsea for helping facilitate this opportunity,” Barry said ahead of taking up his role next month.

Off the field, UEFA have delayed a decision, initially due next week, on whether to proceed with the 12-city concept for the Euro 2020 finals, with fears in some quarters that they would be forced to reduce the number of host cities for public health reasons.

Hill says that European football’s governing body have told national FAs of the host cities that being able to have crowds, even limited attendances, is key and that will need buy-in from the Government. A decision to open up the Aviva to crowds for the Euros, while inter-county GAA remains on hold and rugby is played behind closed doors, could antagonise other sporting bodies.

“Yes, is the simple answer to that,” Hill said. “UEFA wants to see fans in all 12 of the stadia and all 12 of the cities and we are planning on the basis that we will have fans in the Aviva Stadium. That is the current situation and that is the plan.

“It’s fair to say UEFA are pushing forward because of the timetables involved. They have real people who bought real tickets for matches and who bought transport and hotels.

“At some point they need to take decisions in relation to the structure of the tournament. What they would like to see, as we all would, is as many people as possible in the grounds to watch the Euro finals play out.

“It is now a situation whereby all 12 of the cities are working with UEFA and their governments to work out how many fans they can get safely into their individual stadia. In reality, we’re all learning from each other in terms of the approaches that are being taken.

“We have a four- to six-week period to do that and in early April UEFA will take its decisions. But to be absolutely clear, we are committed to the hosting of our four games and we will have fans in the stadium – it’s just a question of how many.”

Poland, Slovakia and Sweden are due to play group games in Dublin, with one match in the knockout phase also listed for the city. UEFA have yet to decide how tickets which have already been sold for venues will be allocated if stadiums operate at a reduced capacity, but it’s unlikely that travel from those nations would be encouraged due to Covid-19 restrictions, so Irish-based fans – or Poles and Slovaks living in Ireland – who bought tickets for the finals could get in.

“As to whether UEFA would be happy if 9,000, 10,000, 15,000 fans were all Irish, I think they’d be very, very happy with that, so they can have Dublin as part of the 12 cities and everything that Dublin brings and Ireland brings in relation to its own very singular and unique character to play in the overall tournament and they want that from all of the cities. So absolutely, I think it would be acceptable.”

Hill is also upbeat on the chances of a joint bid involving the FAI and England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to co-host the 2030 World Cup can succeed.

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“I think it’s absolutely credible. I think the decision to have a joint approach is the right decision. We know that the English FA has already had two attempts to host the World Cup since it last did in 1966. So I think it needed to change the narrative slightly, and, I think, incorporating the other home nations and, in particular, incorporating the FAI into the proposed approach, I think is very sensible,” he said.

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