Taoiseach speaks to Boris Johnson on 2030 World Cup joint bid proposal
Bid viewed in political circles as opportunity for Irish-British co-operation after Brexit
Taoiseach Micheál Martin (right) and UK prime minister Boris Johnson spoke over the phone on Tuesday. Photographs: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos and Leon Neal/PA Pool/Getty
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has spoken to British prime minister Boris Johnson on the proposal for a joint bid for the FIFA 2030 World Cup.
Mr Martin spoke to Mr Johnson by telephone on Tuesday morning to discuss the bid, announced by the British prime minister on Monday.
The Taoiseach expressed support for the idea in a conversation in which, a source said, “all sides were enthusiastic about the idea but it’s a long process”.
The phone call came after it was disclosed that Ireland and the UK are to make a joint bid to host the 2030 event.
In a joint statement, the five football associations of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales said they would support a prospective bid for the tournament.
Speaking as he arrived at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the Taoiseach said he would be very happy to co-operate and support the five football associations involved.
“The idea of Ireland as a major location is something that Irish governments have been pushing for some time,” said Mr Martin.
He said the idea was a really good one and that sports fans in particular would be looking forward to such a tournament if the bid were successful.
While the bid had been mooted for some years, confirmation that it would go ahead came in an interview given by the British prime minister. He told the Sun newspaper that UK chancellor Rishi Sunak would commit £2.5 million (€3.2 million) in the British budget on Wednesday to fund the bid.
“We are very, very keen to bring football home in 2030. I do think it’s the right place,” Mr Johnson said. “It’s the home of football, it’s the right time. It will be an absolutely wonderful thing for the country.”
The joint bid is being viewed in political circles as an opportunity for the Irish and British government to co-operate and reestablish a close working relationship in the aftermath of Brexit.
Minister for Arts, Tourism and Sport Catherine Martin said: “This is an exciting possibility, but we are still in the very early stages of assessing how, and if, this major global tournament could be part-hosted by our nation.
“Feasibility studies will continue with our partners to assess the viability of a bid, and we look forward to further extensive engagement and collaboration as we seek to refine our hosting proposals in the coming months and years.”
The Department said it would “continue with sporting partners to assess the viability of a prospective bid. In the first instance this will involve contributing to a capability assessment of stadia as well as a number of other criteria to help determine whether the return ultimately justifies Ireland’s participation in the bid.
“Direct economic benefits such as spending by visiting fans, broadcasters and media and sponsors will be taken into account but other long-term benefits such as increased international profile, participation in sports, strengthened links with our nearest neighbours, and increased future tourism will also be assessed.”
Former taoiseach and football fan Bertie Ahern said the ambition was “doable” but was quick to lower expectations, noting that World Cup bids are notoriously difficult.
“It’s not easy to get. The English FA have gone through this twice since [hosting] their ’66 World Cup and in spite of the fact that that was seen, in another generation, as being a very successful World Cup, they’ve failed in the bid[s],” he told Newstalk Radio, before listing off other potentially interested countries.
“The one I would fear as the outsider maybe at this stage, but president Xi in China. One of his big ambitions is to get the World Cup to China. He is putting a lot of investment into soccer, football, in China.”
Mr Ahern said he was confident the GAA would make Croke Park available in the Republic, alongside the Aviva.
“I think it’s doable. We could get carried away and say we want the final in Ireland and all that, but if we keep [our] feet on the ground, realistically, we’re talking about six group games and I think that’s well doable, and particularly with the lead-in time.”