Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe has cast doubt over financial models underpinning Ireland’s bid for Euro 2028, internal Government papers reveal.
Minister for Sport and Tourism Catherine Martin received Cabinet approval to submit a final joint bid earlier this week alongside England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
However, papers seen by The Irish Times show a rift between Ms Martin’s department and Mr Donohoe’s which raised concerns about whether the financial impact of hosting the tournament had been appropriately accounted.
A briefing document drawn up for Cabinet Ministers shows that Mr Donohoe told colleagues that his department “is not absolutely persuaded that the case for potential economic benefits for Ireland is as robust as the Department of Tourism suggests”.
Ms Martin told Cabinet colleagues that the gross added value to the economy would be in the region of €189 million, but that the total socioeconomic benefit taking in legacy benefits would be €241 million, although the lower figure is used when making the case for hosting the event. A cost of just under €65 million is estimated but when inflation and contingency funds are accounted for, this figure may rise to just under €93 million.
Dublin Central TD Mr Donohoe questioned a key assumption made by the Department of Tourism that there would be zero “displacement” effect on the tourist trade. The document outlines that the department’s models for the tournament assumed that visitors who could not come to the country due to the tournament taking place would come another year, or at another time in 2028. But Mr Donohoe’s observations submitted to Cabinet note that this is “overly optimistic”.
“My department’s view is that displacement is highly unlikely to be zero,” the Cabinet document reads, outlining that the contest takes place at the height of the summer tourism season.
According to the documents, the tournament would still break even if 50 per cent of visitors were displaced — but after that, the return would be negative. Mr Donohoe’s submission argues that there is “a plausible scenario whereby the investment that will go into this project … may not come close to realising its estimated gross added value.”
He said it was absolutely crucial that “realistic plans and marketing strategies” be put together that “take account of the inevitable displacement impact of hosting six games … at the height of the summer tourism season”.
He also flagged concerns around the refurbishment costs of the disused Casement Park stadium in Belfast, which has been included as a candidate stadium in the bid documents. It is expected that significant capital investment needed would be provided by the UK — but if funding was sought under the Government’s Shared Island scheme, Mr Donohoe wanted that the exchequers bill would be significantly higher than the €93 million estimate.
The Government believes that hosting the tournament would be an important event for relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom in the post-Brexit era. The costs have come down significantly, by €25 million, due to Ireland pitching to host just six games, instead of a seven-game schedule which included the use of Croke Park. The largest cost would be for security, at €27.5 million.
Risks outlined in the document include a collapse of the partnership between the football associations, or a disagreement between them, as well as a resurgence of Covid-19. The joint bid is competing against Turkey, which lost to Germany in the competition to host Euro 2024.