FAI welcome Uefa's Euro2020 vision
SOCCER:The FAI welcomed yesterday’s decision by Uefa’s Executive Committee in Lausanne to stage the Euro2020 finals tournament across a network of disparate cities, with the association here clearly hopeful that Dublin will get a share of the action when the venues are announced in early 2014.
The bidding process will formerly start next spring although it appears that lobbying has been under way for some time in anticipation of a scheme, apparently been dreamt up and certainly championed by president Michel Platini, getting the green light.
Ireland, it seems, may have teamed up with the Scots, Welsh and an unnamed English city to form what would be considered a “geographical cluster” for the purposes of the tournament.
FAI chief executive John Delaney is believed to have spoken with Platini about the issue when he visited the Aviva Stadium for the Republic of Ireland, Greece game last month. Neither the format nor the number of host cities has actually been formally decided at this stage, with Uefa’s National Team Competition Committee set to work out all of the details during the next couple of months.
Speaking in Monaco in August, however, Platini suggested that a total of 13 cities would be involved with 12 getting four games each and the other staging both of the semi-finals as well as the final. The Uefa president has doubtless outlined his vision in far greater detail behind the scenes and his views are almost certain to be reflected in the final plan.
The English FA, it was confirmed yesterday, has already nominated Wembley as a candidate to host the tournament finale but it is likely to have plenty of competition. It is not entirely clear, meanwhile, how the rest of the tournament might be carved up and whether a city like Dublin would stand any chance of hosting a knockout game as part of its quota.
There has been some talk that Dublin could host an entire group but Platini’s comments appear to rule that out. In any case, Croke Park would almost certainly be required if Dublin was to host a group as the final games would have to be played at the same time and no talks are believed to have taken place about its availability.
Rather the FAI seems likely to bid to host games as part of the sort of “regional hub” that Uefa is said to be considering in order to restrict the amount of travelling involved.
Having previously been involved in talks with the Irish and Scots about the possibility of bidding to host the entire tournament, the Welsh appeared to provide a sense of what might be shaping up behind the scenes when FAW chief executive Jonathan Ford said yesterday: “If we are part of a hub including Glasgow, Dublin and an English city this could be very exciting.”
In the event that Dublin is selected as a venue and Ireland qualify for the tournament then the Aviva Stadium would almost certainly, according to Uefa, host some of the Irish games. Otherwise, up to eight national teams and their fans would pass through the Irish capital.
It is this aspect of Platini’s scheme which has prompted a mix of scepticism and opposition outside of Uefa. Critics point on the one hand to the sense of occasion created by staging the championship in one country as well as on the other to the cost and practical difficulties that will be encountered by fans faced with crisscrossing Europe in order to see games in the event that it is split up.
When such reservations were put to him in June, the Frenchman grandly observed: “There are low-cost airlines and it’s easier to go from London to Paris or Berlin, then Kharkov to Gdansk.’’
Travelling between many major European cities would, as he suggests, be easier than moving between Ukraine and Poland although mainly because such journeys were often enormously difficult or least prohibitively expensive during Euro 2012.
The fact that getting to Dublin is more difficult, meanwhile, without flying would tend to limit its appeal as a venue. Certainly it seemed to take its toll on the number of Portuguese fans who travelled for the Europa League final last year.