Any Irish proposal to host the America's Cup will be consistent with government policy on public spending, said Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney as it emerged it may require €200 million investment to secure the prestigious sailing event estimated to be worth billions to the host nation.
Mr Coveney said that Ireland was not involved in "an auction" to secure to the America's Cup, which has most recently been hosted by New Zealand, but had instead put together a team of experts, including Ernst & Young to carry out a cost benefit analysis of hosting the event in Cork Harbour.
“EY are in the middle of finalising a cost benefit analysis at the moment in terms of the financial value to the country of a global sporting event of this scale which many would say is third only to the Olympics and the football World Cup in terms of a hosting a global sporting event,” he said.
“ I can assure any proposals brought to government for decision will be consistent with the public spending code and will be fully thought through on the back of a cost benefit analysis and legal negotiation with the sports management team who are making the choice.”
Earlier this week, The Irish Times reported that the government officials have found that the State would face a bill of more than €200 million to run the America’s Cup yacht race in Cork Harbour if Ireland wins a competition to host the event.
“The host country is essentially liable to cover the cost of hosting the event. The case needs to be very strong and robust and has to stand up to independent scrutiny,” a Government source familiar with the project told The Irish Times.
Cork Harbour has been shortlisted, alongside Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and one another location, to host the 2024 race but a Cabinet decision on whether to proceed with a final bid will depend on the overall cost of doing so. The Coalition is said to have an open mind.
Although Mr Coveney has championed the America’s Cup project, the question of the State assuming a heavy financial burden to host the event is under close scrutiny in the Government, given the pressures dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic are putting on the public finances.
The evaluation of bids will be carried out by Origin Sports, a London-based sports consultancy, whose chief executive Stewart Hosford is originally from Cork and who knows Mr Coveney personally."If Ireland is successful they'll be successful on their own merit," he said.
Meanwhile Mr Coveney said that while he didn’t want to set exact timelines, the issue of whether Ireland would seek to host the competition was progressing quickly as the government was anxious to have its final decision made so the organisers could announce the new venue by September 17th.
“This isn’t done yet, not by a long shot … but let me tell you but if we are successful in hosting the 2024 Americas Cup in Cork, it will be a global sporting event that Cork has never seen before in terms of media interest and the numbers travelling here from abroad to participate and watch it.
“Don’t forget the last time the America’s Cup was held at a European venue, 2.5 million spectators came to see it and it was over worth €2 billion to the Spanish economy so this is sport on a very big scale and we happen to have one of the largest and most impressive natural harbours in the world.
"Cork Harbour is a natural resource that enables us to credibly bid for an event of this scale so it's very exciting and this is something that is less about the sport itself and more about the event and the investment and the momentum that can be built around the Cork and Munster economy."