quick decision | 

FAI face a big World Cup call as option opens for Euro 2028 bid with the UK

Ireland must make quick decision on whether focus should now shift to tournament in six years’ time
The FAI offices at the national training centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

The FAI offices at the national training centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

Daniel McDonnell

Key figures in the UK and Ireland 2030 World Cup bid are preparing to shift their focus towards a push for the 2028 European Championships as they believe it offers a greater chance of success.

The final call is set to be made before March and while the overall bidding process for the next decade has been clouded by squabbles between UEFA and FIFA around the latter’s plans for a biennial World Cup, there is a growing expectation that the British and Irish delegations will train their eyes on the 2028 Euros.

That is not agreed, however, and the feasibility study for hosting the global showpiece in 2030 is ongoing.

However, it is now running in tandem with exploration of the 2028 idea and there is a belief that leaving Spain-Portugal to fly the European flag in a World Cup battle with a South American bid would make sense. This has been informed by advice from above.

A swift call is needed because of UEFA’s looming March deadline for lodging interest in the 2028 Euros.

The decision on a host is not due to be made until September of next year but the bidding process has been complicated by UEFA’s decision to run the 2032 bidding process in tandem with the lobbying for the 2028 event.

Member associations cannot bid for both, but it means that nations with designs on hosting any kind of tournament in the next decade will have to throw their hat into the ring at this juncture.

Therefore, while there is confidence in the ranks of the British and Irish bid that they could have a pretty clear run at 2028, it’s by no means set in stone and experienced administrators feel a race of some description is inevitable.

Italy are expected to launch a bid for one of the Euros and Turkey, Russia and a union of some Balkan nations are other options that could come into the equation.

Moving out of the 2030 race would serve the British and Irish well politically, but there is a feeling that they wouldn’t be guaranteed a clear path so these factors will have to be weighed up in any discussions.

It has been reported in British newspaper The Times that UEFA have plans to expand their finals from 24 teams to 32 from 2028, although this is yet to be agreed and applications for bids will be centred around a 24-team renewal.

But a subsequent decision to expand the competition would be beneficial for a five-nation bid given the scope of what would be needed for a 32-team event. That would be a very contentious move, though, and this is where the waters are being muddied by the scrap with FIFA and Gianni Infantino’s vision for a World Cup every two years which would have serious implications for UEFA with the Euros in mind.

European football’s powerbrokers have found support in opposition to that plan from their South American counterparts and this could also be significant in the lobbying around the staging of future tournaments.

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