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Croke Park and Casement Park potential venues if Irish-UK bid for Euros is successful

Some further detail on today’s confirmation that the FAI are joining the FAs of the UK in a bid for the 2028 Euros, having abandoned plans for the 2030 World Cup.

A view of Croke Park.
A view of Croke Park.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

CROKE PARK AND Casement Park are potential venues to stage matches if Ireland and Britain are successful in their bid to co-host the 2028 Uefa European Championships. 

The Chief Executives of the football associations of England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Northern Ireland briefed members of the media earlier today on the fact they were changing tack to bid for the Euros, having initially undertaken a feasibility study regarding a potential co-host of the 2030 World Cup. 

An FAI statement cited a similar return on investment along with a supposed lower running cost as to the reasons behind the change to aiming for the Euros, rather than the World Cup. 

Speaking to the media today, CEO of the English FA Mark Bullingham referred to a greater level of certainty around Uefa and the Euros as a reason for the change of approach. 

“We’ve looked at two fantastic events, both of them are multi-billion economic impacts events to our countries. For the Euros we have a clear bidding landscape and bidding timeline, and we know we can put together a highly-competitive bid. With the World Cup there are many areas of uncertainty, in terms of timeline, and the frequency of events.

“And we know Uefa have been very transparent with all 55 [member] countries that they want to use 2024 and 2028 men’s Euros to rebuild their reserves and their coffers, which they have used during the pandemic. We believe we can put together a very strong tournament in many ways and we also know we can deliver a really strong commercial return to Uefa, which we feel puts us in a strong position.” 

There is considerably more uncertainty around the World Cup, chiefly in terms of competition. There is not yet a known competitor with Ireland/UK for the 2028 Euros, whereas Portugal and Spain are expected to launch a bid for the 2030 World Cup. There is also likely to be a South American incorporating Uruguay, the host of the inaugural World Cup, on what would be the competition’s centenary. 

The Irish/UK bid is likely to face competition: Italy have expressed an interest in hosting – though there is a growing consensus they may wait for Euro 2032 – while Turkey vowed to return to the process having missed out on Euro 2024 to Germany. 

In rejecting the World Cup, Bullingham also mentioned uncertainty around the frequency of the event as Fifa president Gianni Infantino continues to advocate for a biennial World Cup, a proposal that has been forcefully rejected by Uefa. 

The UK/Irish bid toed the Uefa line on the biennial World Cup when asked about it, with Bullingham saying, “we’ve been very clear, as all of the Uefa countries, we didn’t think that a biennial World Cup in men or in women’s was a good idea.” 

The bid timelines are very clear: all interested parties must officially declare their interest by 23 March. 

Today’s press blitz confirmed the five associations are going to submit a bid though it was short on any other concrete detail. They don’t yet know whether the competition will remain at 24 teams or be further expanded to a 32-team tournament, and thus they don’t know how many of the five co-hosts will be handed automatic qualification. 

Under the 24-team format, no more than two spots are reserved for the hosts. 

unnamed (1) Jonathan Hill speaks to the media. Source: FAI/Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

There is no detail yet on the venues to host games, though Jonathan Hill confirmed there has been dialogue with the GAA during the World Cup feasibility study and that Croke Park is in play as a potential venue along with the Aviva Stadium. 

Under Uefa’s stipulations, Northern Ireland presently doesn’t have a stadium large enough to host a game at the tournament: Windsor Park is short of the minimum 30,000 seats. One option would be Antrim GAA ground Casement Park, which has been subject to a torturous renovation process.

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A ball has not been kicked at the stadium since 2013, though planning permission for a slightly-scaled down, 34,500-capacity stadium was granted in July last year. Building work has yet to begin, however. 

“Nothing is ruled in or out at this point, other than the fact that we definitely want to host games in Northern Ireland”, said IFA CEO, Patrick Nelson. 

“We’re not along for the ride. We want to be a full part of the bid and we’ll be talking to everybody that we need to going forward.”

The FAI partook in today’s announcement hours before they unveiled their Strategic Plan for the sport in Ireland, stretching to 2025. During the course of today’s briefing, Jonathan Hill was asked if he could offer reassurance that the bid would not prove a distraction and drain on resources as the Association addresses the sport’s problems in Ireland. 

“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”, replied Hill.

“And, as you know, we’ve been working extremely closely with the Government over the last two years anyway so that’s exactly how we’d want it to be.

“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 but the Government is firmly behind this.”  

Hill also said he believed Ireland’s status as the only EU member among the bidding nations would be a benefit to the bid. 

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Gavin Cooney

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