Football coming home? An Irish Times view

A joint British-Irish bid for World Cup 2030 will require more than rich imagination and unbridled ambition

The centenary staging of the World Cup will be in 2030. Photograph:  Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

The centenary staging of the World Cup will be in 2030. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

 

For a country that has hosted very few international sporting events of any significance, this week’s endorsement by the Government of a potential joint bid with Britain for the 2030 World Cup seems like idle fancy winning out over harsh reality. A populist promise easily made.

Ireland’s experience in staging major international sporting extravaganzas is extremely limited and confined to events like the Ryder Cup, the Women’s Rugby World Cup and the Special Olympics. Although these were carried off with great success, they are relatively modest undertakings in a global sense.

Setting a country’s sights on co-hosting the World Cup – sport’s greatest spectacle along with the Olympics – requires more than just a rich imagination and unbridled ambition. The scale and complexity of putting together a realistic bid by the respective governments and the football associations in Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be daunting and require far greater financial backing than the initial € 3 million promised by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week.

His government will know that attaching Ireland to a British bid may enhance the overall chance of success in its appeal to the Fifa decision makers but it will also appreciate how a failed bid can leave a legacy of embarrassment and even humiliation. Ireland has also experienced similar disappointments with past attempts to win the hosting of world events.

The lessons learned from England’s disastrous bid to host the 2018 World Cup, which garnered just two Fifa votes after a prohibitive €25 million promotional campaign, may prove invaluable this time around. But rival bidders from South America, Spain and Portugal, and perhaps China, will not be slow to remind Fifa why the centenary staging of the World Cup deserves a location that has not been roudly rejected less than 10 years ago.

Bringing football home may be a lot more challenging than the popular ditty might suggest.

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