Football/Soccer

FAI hoping Croke Park and Aviva Stadium will be venue choices for Euro 2028 bid

The Aviva Stadium has been tabled as one of the FAI's venues for the UK-Ireland Euro 2028 bid

FAI chief Jonathan Hill envisaged Aviva Stadium and Croke Park being twin pillars of their bid to part-host the 2028 European Championships alongside the Irish FA and their cross-channel partners, announced yesterday.

While IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson insisted they were not going “along for the ride”, the northern association did appear to be the weaker link in the five-association Euro bid as they currently don’t have a stadium with the requisite 30,000-capacity to host finals games.

Nelson, however, did not rule out the IFA asking the GAA for use of the bigger Casement Park should the west Belfast venue be rebuilt, pending a judicial review next month for planning permission.

Nelson also lamented the recent collapse of the NI Executive, but hoped regional funding for the association could still be delivered “to make sure we have a stadium that is capable” of hosting games, which would probably require developing and expanding Windsor Park – a venue that successfully staged last season’s Super Cup between Chelsea and Villarreal - or borrowing Casement Park. 

“We are absolutely keen to play a full part and we want to host games in Northern Ireland,” Nelson said.

“We know we have to work with partners, primarily Government partners…

“We’re in a position as of last week that we don't have the Executive office operating…

“Presuming they won't come back before the Assembly election [in May], then we're clearly going to work with the Government partners as we have been doing for the last few years…

“We have some regional funding that is hopefully still in the pipeline, and we'll be working with the Government in Northern Ireland to make sure that comes through. But we're very keen to host games, clearly.”

Nelson added: “We know the national football stadium at Windsor Park doesn't meet the requisite capacity for the Euros but we also understand that being part of the bid brings a massive range of benefits to Northern Ireland.

“We will work with our partners to be in a position to host matches here in Northern Ireland and we look forward to driving it forward in the coming months and years.”

It is still unclear if UEFA will opt for a 24 or a 32-team tournament in 2028, although it is likely to be the latter.

Nelson’s southern counterpart, Jonathan Hill, was confident Croke Park was a viable venue option for the FAI.

Asked specifically on getting consent from the GAA to use the north Dublin venue, Hill said: “In terms of the feasibility study we initiated for the World Cup [2030 – an unsuccessful bid by Britain and Ireland], absolutely. We talk to them [the GAA] on a regular basis anyway. That was part of the initial discussion. We’ll wait to see what the parameters from UEFA are in terms of stadia number and matches.”

With Spain and Portugal thought to be the heavy favourites to host the 203o World Cup finals, the British and Irish football associations have turned their attention to hosting Euro 2028 as it had greater “winnability”, according to English FA chief Mark Bullingham.

Russia and Turkey are other possible bidders to host Euro 2028.

UEFA has set a deadline of March 23 for expressions of interest to host Euro 2028 and Euro 2032, with the respective governments expected to back the UK-Ireland host bid.

The bidding landscape, however, is complicated by FIFA’s ongoing discussions over hosting the World Cup every two years which would have ramifications for the international calendar and the European Championships.

“All of the potential changes that FIFA have been proposing or doing a feasibility study on are still up in the air,” Bullingham said.

“I think we've been very clear - we didn't think biennial World Cups either in men's or women's (football) were a good idea and we don't believe that they will come to fruition.”

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Football/Soccer