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'What it will show is that organisations like ours can work together in a post-Brexit world'

John Delaney has said GAA stadiums could be used as part of the 2023 Euros bid.

FAI Chief Executive John Delaney and Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson at Windsor Park yesterday.
FAI Chief Executive John Delaney and Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson at Windsor Park yesterday.
Image: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

Updated at 07.43

- Paul Fennessy reports from Windsor Park

FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF Ireland Chief Executive John Delaney says he is not ruling out the possibility of GAA stadiums being used as part of his association’s joint-bid in tandem with the Irish Football Association to host the 2023 European U21 Championships, while praising the historical significance of the bid.

Should the Euros bid — announced at a launch on Thursday — be successful, Windsor Park will host the final, while the Aviva Stadium is set to be the venue for a number of fixtures.

Other stadiums that could possibly be used included Dalymount Park, Kingspan Stadium, Thomond Park, Tallaght Stadium, Ballymena Showgrounds and Turner’s Cross. The minimum capacity for a ground at such a tournament is usually 8,000, though special dispensation has been awarded previously for smaller venues.

Asked whether he would rule out GAA stadiums becoming involved, Delaney said: “No. The GAA have always been very cooperative with the FAI in all of their dealings. When we were building the Aviva Stadium, they opened Croke Park. We had Pairc Ui Chaoimh [for the Liam Miller tribute game] recently. If both [the FAI and the IFA] needed support from the GAA, we would of course look to speak to them.”

One significant factor, however, is the amount of teams that will compete. The upcoming 2019 European U21 Championships features 12 teams, though both Delaney and Irish Football Association Chief Executive Patrick Nelson suggested that increasing the number of participants for the 2023 tournament to 16 was a possibility. They also insisted that the associations would be prepared for whatever eventuality Uefa decide upon, with the matter set to be discussed at an executive strategy meeting in Dublin next month.

The 2019 U21 Euros will be co-hosted by Italy and San Marino, though only the former were granted automatic qualification for the tournament.

Nelson hinted that making it a 16-team competition could increase the likelihood of both the North and the Republic getting a bye to the tournament proper, but explained: “Nothing is assumed at this point.”

Both Nelson and Delaney played down suggestions that the latter’s role on the executive committee of Uefa would have a significant impact on the bid’s fortunes, preferring instead to emphasise the “compelling story” they were confident of offering.

Factors such as the symbolic significance of the bid were also referenced by both chief executives.

What it will show is that organisations like ours can work together in a post-Brexit world,” Nelson said. “There are degrees of uncertainty that all of us are facing every day with Brexit coming up. There are many subjects on which you could say: ‘How is this going to work? How is that going to work?’ And the answer is: we don’t know yet. What we’re confident about is that we know what Uefa are looking for, we know we can deliver it in a compelling way.” 

The pair cited other events as evidence to back up their optimism in relation to the current bid — the 2011 Europa League final in the Aviva Stadium, the 2017 Women’s U19 European Championship in Northern Ireland, the 2020 U19 European Championship in Northern Ireland, the 2019 European U17 Championship in the Republic and the 2020 European Championships, for which Dublin will host four of the 51 matches.

Questions about previous tensions between the FAI and IFA over players switching allegiances from one country to another were batted away, with Nelson insisting the two organisations have “a good relationship”.

A view of Windsor Park before the game The recently redeveloped Windsor Park will host the final of the competition if the bid is successful. Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

And the move is just the latest attempt by the pair to pool their resources following on from last September’s announcement that both could be involved, along with the English, Scottish and Welsh FAs, in a bid to host the 2030 World Cup.

“There’s absolute no doubt that the idea of the round ball of football uniting two associations on one island, given the Brexit context and all that goes on with that, certainly has a uniqueness,” Delaney added.

“It’s up to us now to ensure it’s a high standard bid.”

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Paul Fennessy

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