The FAI and the IFA have a little over two months to make a call with their potential partners in England, Scotland and Wales on switching from the hope of hosting a FIFA World Cup in 2030 to doing likewise for a potentially expanded European Championship Finals in 2028.
Global political games need to be deciphered in order to judge what has the best chance of success but the feasibility study around a World Cup bid for 2030 is carrying on with government money set aside to assist that.
The 2030 World Cup is a FIFA tournament but UEFA would only put forward one potential bid to compete with another likely to come from South America and another likely to come from China. There has also been talk of a bid from Egypt which would become Africa’s second host nation, a timely 20 years after South Africa.
The sequence of World Cup hosting between those two will have been Brazil in 2014, Russia in 2018, Qatar in 2022 and The United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026.
Europe will feel it is its ‘turn’ and there is likely to be a strong bid from Spain and Portugal. Choosing to go for UEFA’s own tournament would likely garner support for the British and Irish bid across Europe’s major powers, with Italy then favoured to host the 2032 edition. Turkey and Russia are also understood to be keen bidders for one or either of the European events.
England has staged the World Cup once, in 1966, and the Euro Finals on its own in 1996, as well as a number of games including the two semi-finals and the finals of 2020.
The trouble which marred the Final of that tournament will cast a shadow over a bid so soon after but it seems likely that these misgivings would be secondary to the obvious benefits of scale in terms of a multi-nation host, particularly if the tournament expands to 32 teams.
The Republic of Ireland is currently ranked 27 in Europe, and Northern Ireland 29. This means both would have a strong chance of competing in their own hosted finals of a 32 team Euros, less so if the tournament stayed at 24 and less so again in a World Cup of 48 teams where 16 of the qualifiers will be from Europe.
Those are the kind of deliberations that will exercise the joint team looking at the bidding process, with expressions of interest needed by March and an 18-month process to determine the successful candidates.
Sport for Business Perspective
World Cups live longer in the memory but that is less so if your own team qualifies to compete, especially so on home soil. Looking at the numbers a potentially expanded Euros gives both teams on the island of Ireland the best chance of competing and that will be uppermost in the minds of those making the decision. Those same calculations will be going on in Scotland and Wales making the shorter run to 2028 a more likely outcome. There is also the fear that delaying an opportunity could be scuppered by changing political circumstances. The choice has to be to go for what is most attainable and gives the best chance of two teams competing.
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