A World Cup makes no sense, except that it is bloody brilliant

Money would be better spent in other areas of Irish soccer but wouldn't we love to host a major event all the same...
A World Cup makes no sense, except that it is bloody brilliant

Hundreds of thousands of German fans watch the Germany v Poland World Cup 2006 group match on the large screens at the 'fan fest' near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

NOTHING seems to polarize this society as quickly as an announcement that the country is looking to host an international sporting event.

The news that the FAI in the Republic of Ireland was going to join the football associations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in a joint bid to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup quickly had opposing sides take to the trenches clinging stubbornly to the rifle of their opinion on the merits or demerits of us joining an ambitious/fool-hardy quest to host the largest sporting event in the world.

Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Sports, Jack Chambers said that Ireland "won't be found wanting" when it comes to playing its part in a potential joint bid to host soccer's signature competition.

For those against the idea of hosting the World Cup, this was an ominous early admission that millions of euro of vital tax-payers money will be squandered drawing an expensive boondoggle upon us. For those in favour of the best teams in the world, playing here before us, in a once in a lifetime festival of football it was a positive assertion of optimism in the country and in the game of football.

Minister of State for the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Jack Chambers TD said that Ireland "won't be found wanting" when it comes to playing its part in a potential joint bid to host the World Cup. Picture: Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland
Minister of State for the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Jack Chambers TD said that Ireland "won't be found wanting" when it comes to playing its part in a potential joint bid to host the World Cup. Picture: Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland

In these scenarios, the negatives of hosting an international sporting event are far easier to demonstrate because they are plainly easier to see and often correct in their assertions.

One doesn't have to travel too far back in time to see the negative economic consequence of hosting marquee sporting festivals. From bankrupting Montreal and Athens with the Olympics to Brazil's hugely expensive and deserted jungle stadiums from the 2014 World Cup. Virtually every World Cup and Olympics have a tale of woe, where after the partying and excitement of hosting the games are gone, the economic hangover goes on and on for those left with the bill.

Even in the best of times, hosting an international event of such standing is a risky proposition, supporting the bid to bring the World Cup to this country the same week it is confirmed that the Exchequer owes €16bn extra as a result of Covid-19 relief measures makes it feel like an insane suggestion.

Inviting the world to our shores to share a great moment in time tickles the imagination of any sports fan. But when one considers that this nation's own football association has debts over €60m, while its domestic league is on life-support in rust-bucket stadiums, makes it seem an especially foolish proposition.

There are many pitfalls for this bid on the way to acceptance, not least the GAA's co-operation for venues and whether Páirc Uí Chaoimh would need another overhaul if Cork is to join the list of host cities.

Celtic and Ireland's Colin Healy against Roy Keane of Manchester United at the Liam Miller Tribute Match in Páirc Uí Chaoimh back in 2018. Will a successful World Cup bid see soccer back in Páirc Uí Chaoimh? Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Celtic and Ireland's Colin Healy against Roy Keane of Manchester United at the Liam Miller Tribute Match in Páirc Uí Chaoimh back in 2018. Will a successful World Cup bid see soccer back in Páirc Uí Chaoimh? Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Those in favour of the bid will tout the money that a World Cup will bring into the state. The profile and goodwill this can garner at an international level will far surpass any Bord Fáilte campaign and boost tourism and the convention business long after the final whistle. These benefits are harder to quantify as the reward comes long after the tournament has moved on.

But if the truth be known, the real reason anyone in favour of the bid wants to see a World Cup come to Ireland is that it simply would be a truly wonderful occasion.

I went to the World Cup in Germany back in 2006 and it was one of the best experiences in my life. Two weeks of fan fests, atmosphere, joyous crowds, friendships, exploring cities, fun, excellent beer, oh and the football too, it remains special to me to this day.

I don't know if the Germans made money out of the World Cup, probably nothing that would be clearly quantifiable on the spot, but the joy it brought to the host cities and to everyone who witnessed it is priceless.

And that's what I want to see for Ireland, to experience that excitement, that thrill of hosting a world important event, bringing in people from all over the world for the simple purpose of living life to the full and enjoying football.

Would the money be better spent on important infrastructure and servicing our debt? Absolutely.

Is it wrong to splash out money on marquee events when your domestic league is on its knees? Yes completely.

The only thing, there will always be better and more important causes to spend the money elsewhere. I still want to see the League of Ireland saved, I want us to spend money on our hospitals and services too, but I also think it would be a great experience to have the greatest show on Earth come to this special little country too. It will live long as something special for the nation, especially if we can find a way to qualify for it.

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