FAI in talks over possible joint bid for 2030 World Cup
Uefa expected to give backing to bid as FAI join in feasibility review
The Aviva Stadium in Dublin could host World Cup games in 2030. Photograph: Stephen Heaney/Inpho
Even from in his political grave, it seems, Sepp Blatter knows which way the football winds are blowing. Back in June the former Fifa president predicted that the FAI would join a “British” bid to host the 2030 World Cup and on Wednesday night the FAI confirmed that they are on the verge of doing just that.
There are a great many hurdles to overcome, of course, even before the bidding process gets under way, and quite a few to cope with after that, but if the bid does go ahead it will almost certainly have the backing of Uefa and be the only one from Europe, something that will ensure it is at least a very serious contender.
“Following recent positive discussions amongst all parties it has been agreed that the Football Association of Ireland will join the English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish FAs in conducting a feasibility review into a potential joint bid to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup,” said the other Irish association in a statement on Wednesday night.
A decision on where the tournament will be staged is still several years off and any European bid is set to face competition from South America (Argentina/Uruguay/Paraguay) as well as North Africa (Morocco with Tunisia and/or Algeria). Spain have floated the idea of bidding by themselves as have the Egyptians, while there has been talk of a joint venture by North and South Korea, even though it is not Asia’s “turn”.
The scale of the enlarged tournament, though – 48 teams from 2026 and most likely 14 stadiums with a minimum capacity of 40,000, with at least one more holding 60,000 and one of 80,000 – is bound to prove problematic for “solo” bids, though, with the amount of expenditure involved for a nation not already possessing much of the infrastructure likely to be a huge deterrent, especially after the political fallout in South Africa and Brazil.
If those considerations can be overcome, however then the South American bid would be a very serious rival with Uruguay’s special status as the hosts of the first tournament in 1930 likely to lend emotional weight to its campaign to play a part in staging the “centenary” event.
That aside, though a “Pan-British” bid as Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has described it, would have a lot going for it. England could, of course, fairly easily go it alone. The growth of the Premier League has equipped it well in terms of bricks and mortar with (once the new Tottenham stadium is opened is a few weeks time) 12 grounds currently capable of hosting games, two of them large enough to stage the final and another four holding 60,000 or more. All but Twickenham are used regularly for football.
Another handful would be required but when it bid unsuccessfully for the 2018 tournament, it included the likes of Bristol, Nottingham, Plymouth and Milton Keynes as proposed venues and clearly those plans for new or expanded stadiums could be revived.
That bid, though, ended in political disaster and there is clearly a desire to broaden the appeal (and ensure there are others to help shoulder the blame if things go badly) by bringing in the Scots, Welsh and Irish. The original intention was that the IFA would be the sole representatives of the latter but their National Stadium (aka Windsor Park) holds just 18,000 after a redevelopment that was only completed after a bitter and protracted political battle.
It is hard to imagine the association there readily passing up on an opportunity like this and they will surely attempt to put together a viable proposal. But the FAI potentially bring two stadiums in Dublin alone (the Aviva and Croke Park) to the table as well as experience of hosting a Europa League final and, by then, four Euro 2020 games.
And then, of course, there is John Delaney, a member of the Uefa executive committee, who got a lot of votes from across Europe when he ran for the position and was an early supporter of Ceferin when he ran for his.
Blatter knows the value of an asset like that and in June, when it was still just a twinkle in the eye of the English, predicted the bid would succeed.
Doubtless Delaney will be pleased by the vote of confidence from his old friend.