FAI-IFA bid to stage 2023 European U21 Championships set to be dropped
Departure of Delaney and issues at Abbotstown prove problematic for bid
Former FAI chief executive John Delaney. It was hoped his position as chair of Uefa’s youth and amateur football committee would help the bid smooth over its shortcomings. Photograph: Laura Hutton
The joint bid by Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and the Irish Football Association (IFA) to stage the 2023 European Under-21 Championships looks set to be dropped when senior FAI officials meet their IFA counterparts next week.
The two associations announced their intention to bid for the tournament at the end of 2018 and had been working towards a deadline of September this year to submit the formal documentation required but the departure of former FAI chief executive John Delaney combined with the problems he has left behind at Abbotstown appears to have persuaded the association that proceeding would be futile at a time when the resources required are needed elsewhere.
Technically, a joint Irish bid always promised to be weak with very few of the stadiums available to the two associations meeting Uefa’s category three requirements, a prerequisite for use in the tournament’s final stages.
These would have been required to have at least 4,500 seats plus additional facilities for VIPs and the media as well as stipulated levels of floodlighting and the likes of electronic ticketing.
Last summer the event was staged by Italy and San Marino who used a total of six stadiums for what was a 12-team tournament. All of the Italian venues had capacities of over 20,000.
In 2023, it will involve 16 teams but it was believed that only three grounds – the Aviva Stadium, Tallaght and Windsor Park – would meet the criteria without substantial work being required. There doubts about the new Dalymount Park even before it became clear that it will not be ready in time.
The internal politics of these selection processes are key and the hope had been that Delaney’s position as chair of Uefa’s youth and amateur football committee would help the bid smooth over its shortcomings just as his predecessor, Hungary’s Sandor Csanyi, had helped Hungary’s joint bid with Slovenia for 2021 succeed but Delaney has since lost that position and his exit from the organisation’s executive committee is now regarded as a formality with only the timing in question.