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Gareth Bale to lend the stardust as the FAI land in Nyon to confirm their Euro 2028 bid success

Ireland will be formally confirmed as Euro 2028 co-hosts later today – here is what to expect.

HERE’S ONE EUROPEAN away trip from which we will come home with a win. 

An FAI delegation landed in Geneva yesterday, meeting with executives from their four neighbouring associations before they present their bid to co-host Euro 2028 to Uefa’s 18-person Executive Committee. 

The result, happily, is a foregone conclusion. 

Turkey, once the sole competing bid, have instead switched their attention to Euro 2032, which they will co-host with Italy. The Irish/UK bid is therefore unopposed, so there is no losing this. 

The five associations initially came together to explore co-hosting the 2030 World Cup, before switching their energies to Euro 2028 as they believed it was much more winnable. Whereas a Euros bid is subject to a vote by Uefa’s ExCo, a World Cup bid must be voted upon by all in 211 of Fifa’s national associations, many of whom the English FA could not rely upon for support. The argument made to Uefa will be persuasive: after the enormous financial blow of Covid, a Euros hosted primarily in England is a guaranteed money-spinner. 

The FAI and their bid partners must still go through the formalities of a presentation today, however, as it is the first time the Uefa ExCo members will have seen the full details of the bid. The presentation will begin at around 10am at Uefa HQ in Nyon, which is a short train ride from Geneva. Everyone involved in the Irish/UK bid ran through rehearsals at their hotel last night, with Gareth Bale flying in to sprinkle some star dust in the presentation room.  

jonathan-hill Jonathan Hill. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

CEO Jonathan Hill is expected to speak on behalf of the FAI, and he was met in Switzerland yesterday by president Gerry McAnaney, chief operating officer David Courrell, and director of communications and public relations Cathal Dervan. 

Also part of the presentation will be a representative of youth football from each of the five associations, with Shamrock Rovers underage player Ade Solanke – a student on their TY Ashfield College programme – here for the FAI. 

There won’t be any political figures present, with Uefa preferring the presence of football officials only. Political figures have recorded messages as part of the presentation, however. 

Many of the details of the Irish/UK bid have already been agreed. Games will be played in 10 different grounds across the five associations: the Aviva Stadium in Dublin; a redeveloped Casement Park in Belfast; Hampden Park in Glasgow; the Principality Stadium in Cardiff; and Wembley, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, St James’ Park, Villa Park, Ethiad Stadium, and Everton’s new, as-yet-unfinished stadium by the Liverpool docks. 

It’s expected that Dublin will host six games: four group games, a last-16 tie, and a quarter-final. The final will be at Wembley. 

Casement Park, meanwhile, will host five games: four group games and a last-16 tie. The ground’s status is the bid’s biggest question mark, but all parties are committed to ensuring it is redeveloped in time for the tournament. Casement would not have made the final list of proposed stadia if there had not been a firm political commitment to its redevelopment. Should it not be completed in time, then Northern Ireland face the embarrassment of going down as the tournament co-hosts who did not host a tournament game, as neither Windsor Park nor Ravenhill meet Uefa’s minimum 30,000 capacity requirement. 

a-view-of-casement-park Casement Park, pictured in 2021. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The other issue to be resolved is qualification. Uefa are not prepared to guarantee all five co-hosts a place at the 24-team tournament, and tomorrow’s presentation will include a proposal to Uefa around qualification. It is expected that the Irish/UK bid will propose ring-fencing two spots at the tournament for co-hosts who do not qualify via the traditional means. The bid team want these spots to be allocated on the basis of qualifying – so to the two highest-ranked sides who don’t qualify – but that is all subject to Uefa’s imprimatur. Uefa may prefer to involve Nations League performance when it comes to deciding on who deserves a spot. A final decision on qualifying is not expected to be made by tomorrow. 

Victory will be ratified tomorrow, however, with a ceremony to take place at around 11am Irish time tomorrow. At that point the back-slapping and the cork-popping will begin, confirming that after a failed bid for Euro 2008 and the force majeure that thwarted Euro 2020, Ireland will finally co-host games at a European Championships. Having successfully sold the idea to Uefa, the FAI must then sell it to their own constituencies, and prove that a six-game hosting commitment can leave some lasting, tangible benefits. 

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