Euro 2028 bid makes little sense apart from that it would be great to have  

Spending precious funds on another bid for an international sporting event seems ridiculous when one considers the state of our domestic leagues. But John Roycroft still would like to see Euro 2028 come to our shores.
Euro 2028 bid makes little sense apart from that it would be great to have  

FAI Chief Executive Jonathan Hill speaks to FAI TV, in Dublin, following the announcement that the Republic of Ireland and UK FAs are to make a joint bid for EURO 2028. Pictures: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

ANOTHER year, another bid for a major sporting event.

We have gone through multiple bids over the years for rugby and football World Cups and Euro championships, only to abandon them along the way or heartbreakingly lose out to more attractive venues at the final decision.

Sure, Dublin was among the 20 or so venues earmarked to host Euro games last summer, but Covid quickly put an end to that ambition. Probably rightly too. It was insane hosting games in full-attendance stadiums right in the midst of a pandemic. Still, there was definitely a pang of regret when we watched some of the best football around being played at the matches scheduled to be hosted at the Aviva but ended up being played in Wembley and Amsterdam instead.

Anyway, here we go again. On Monday, the football associations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, along with the FAI in the Republic of Ireland, announced they would pursue a bid to host Euro 2028, dropping their previous plan to bid for the World Cup in 2030.

Waste of money

As usual, those against "waste of money" marquee events, were quick to push their opinion; that any extravagant spend on a major international sporting event, while our football association is effectively bankrupt and our national league is run on a shoestring, is the definition of insanity.

A very legitimate view. Our domestic league is a piddling set-up compared to any European comparison, run out of rickety stadiums and a disgrace to a nation with a proud tradition in football as well as the high of a World Cup quarter-final finish.

Logically, the emphasis of our football association would be to address our crippled league and grassroots structures before tilting at Euro championship windmills.

Croke Park before the Walsh Cup final between Dublin and Wexford last month. There would be some work required on the stadium to bring it up to UEFA standards.  Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Croke Park before the Walsh Cup final between Dublin and Wexford last month. There would be some work required on the stadium to bring it up to UEFA standards.  Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Boost

Those in favour of the bid will tout the money that a Euros 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. Also, a fair enough point.

Naturally, these benefits are hard to quantify as the rewards come long after the tournament has moved on. But the immediate boost that thousands of fans arriving in the country for their group games and beyond would be significantly beneficial to a hospitality industry that got the stuffing knocked out of it during the pandemic.

There is the retort that these big events do not return the kind of revenues anything near what is purported by their promoters. Indeed, Qatar, for example, spent a total of €260bn on city infrastructure and an expanded airport in anticipation of the World Cup later this year. The believed dividend from hosting the tournament is estimated to be less than €20bn. This is the type of shortfall only an oil-rich state would consider to be a good idea.

But they are building all new infrastructures at a sports-washing level that we will not have to address in our bid. Apart from some work on Croke Park to move it up to UEFA requirements, most of our infrastructure is already in place. So the impact on the State's budget should not be overly crippling.

The view from above of the Aviva Stadium on the eve of the opening game of the 2022 Six Nations Championship. Picture: Cian O'Regan
The view from above of the Aviva Stadium on the eve of the opening game of the 2022 Six Nations Championship. Picture: Cian O'Regan

Celebration

In my opinion, what's gained from hosting a big tournament is abstract, almost ethereal concepts of joy, inclusion, and pride.

Over the years, I have put forward in this column that some of my best sporting, and indeed life, memories came from going to international football events. Including the tournaments, Ireland missed out on. Two weeks of fan miles, atmosphere, joyous crowds, friendships, exploring cities, fun, excellent beer, mixed with world-class football, remains special to me to this day. And it would be great to finally have that atmosphere and spirit of celebration come to these shores.

Iceland fans cheer on their side in the stands at the Stade de Nice, France at Euro 2016. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Iceland fans cheer on their side in the stands at the Stade de Nice, France at Euro 2016. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Would the money be better spent on the sport's infrastructure and servicing the FAI debt? Absolutely.

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

But then again, why spend precious resources on any sport when homelessness and health issues are the scourge of the weakest in our society already.

And there remains one big question for those against this proposed bid. And it is, what, in their entire experience of living in Ireland, makes them sure that if we didn't participate in hosting Euro 2028, those unspent resources would then flood into the development of the domestic league?

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