Stephen Kenny cautiously backs FAI co-hosting Euro 2028

Ireland boss wary of tournament costs when League of Ireland needs ‘serious investment’

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny: ‘The football infrastructure in this country is nowhere near where it needs to be.’ Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Stephen Kenny has lent cautious support to the FAI co-hosting Euro 2028, along with the football associations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The irony was not lost on Kenny that hosting the tournament would force the FAI and the Irish Government to spend a significant amount on improving GAA headquarters, so Dublin city can showcase a few weeks of international soccer before the final takes place at Wembley Stadium.

Uefa are not expecting any rival bids, as Russia are suspended and Turkey withdrew from the running, but the need to upgrade Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium, to allow the association to hold a third of the matches, has raised concerns about the lack of investment in chronically underdeveloped League of Ireland stadiums.

The poor state of infrastructure across Irish football has long been an eye sore, with Kenny supporting the recent stance taken by Damien Duff, after the Shelbourne manager described facilities as “horrific” in comparison to the GAA. “It is positive to have the European Championships in Ireland,” said Kenny.

“That is a good news story. I am sure the Irish supporters will look forward to having a lot of games in this country. But it is quite a distance away.”

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Despite heightened scepticism surrounding the bid, considering facilities at several leading club grounds are in tatters, Kenny was able to separate the two issues. “The football infrastructure in this country is nowhere near where it needs to be and it needs serious Government investment and I think the Taoiseach [Micheál Martin] has acknowledged that.”

He said publicly that he wants to invest in academies in Ireland.

“I know there are programmes for clubs to try to improve the infrastructure because we are way behind the rest of Europe in terms of stadium facilities. Way behind in this country. We know that, but I don’t see that as conflicting with hosting Euro ’28.

‘Money generator’

“Ultimately, Euro ’28 is a money generator for the economy, right? I don’t know what is involved in the finance. I have no idea how much it is costing, so I am not qualified to speak on the exact figures involved.

“Personally, I don’t see it as a negative. I think it is good that people want to see a major tournament and be a part of big events like that. Ireland wants to be part of that as well, and ideally we want to be there when it comes around.”

However, legitimate concerns remain around funding the Euros at a potential cost to improving archaic conditions at the grassroots of Irish football, especially after two decades of financial mismanagement at the FAI under John Delaney that left the governing body with debts of €62.4 million.

“I am not sure where the money comes from, whether it is FAI coffers or whether it comes from various Government departments. “Essentially, Euro ’28 will be in Dublin at the Aviva or Croke Park – unfortunately, there is nowhere else in Ireland – but I don’t necessarily see it as conflicting. It is a positive to have it,” said Kenny ahead of Saturday’s friendly against Belgium.

“I have not considered it at length. If you are asking my opinion I don’t see it as a conflict. Big events like the Euros would be special for the country.

“How we divide the finance, I have not got the specifics on that. I think the upgrading of infrastructure is a different argument.”

Kenny conceded it was a “valid point” to note that Croke Park, which is fully owned by the GAA, will need to be modernised in order to bring a major soccer tournament to Ireland. “Do I want all resources to be focused on that, and away from all the other aspects in Ireland? No, I don’t. Of course not. That’s not the question. Can they co-exist? Can we continue to grow football at all levels of the country and the league and still have Euro ’28 as a separate entity and something to look forward to in many years time? Possibly.”