Could Páirc Uí Chaoimh become part of Euro 2028 bid?

With talk that Euro 2028 will become a 32-team event, and Belfast struggling to get a stadium  complete in time, John Roycroft hopes that Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Cork will be included as a host city
Could Páirc Uí Chaoimh become part of Euro 2028 bid?

A 32-team Euro 2028 tournament might see Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Cork into a host city situation  Picture:INPHO/James Crombie

DESPITE the last-minute talk of a Russia/ Turkey counter to the UK and Ireland bid for the right to host Euro 2028, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which UEFA would decide against the world's second most important football competition coming to the west of the continent rather than the east.

So with the bid surely decided, the next thing to organise over the coming years is, what stadiums are needed, where the matches will be played, who will become host cities to the group games and where will the knockout contests be played out, and importantly, could Cork make the cut to host group games?

What makes the UK and Ireland bid such an attractive prospect to UEFA is the advantage of having quality, already-in-place, stadium infrastructure across the islands, in four of the five host football associations at least.

Especially in England, the Premier League grounds make their part of the bid a very attractive prospect with little or nothing required from these grounds to be brought up to UEFA requirements.

But even in Scotland, Wales and Ireland the presence of quality national stadiums further enhances the idea of a potentially profitable and popular European football tournament.

What's needed

The current criteria (as in 2016 and 2021) plans are for 51 games featuring 24 teams. Of course, if that should change to 32 teams that would increase the number of games to 59.

With 24 teams the hosts will be required to provide:

  • One stadium with 60,000 seats.
  • One stadium (preferably two) with 50,000 seats.
  • Four stadiums with 40,000 seats.
  • Three stadiums with 30,000 seats.

Should 32 teams be included, which all indications say it will, there is the likelihood of another 40,000 and 30,000 seater stadium, probably another 50,000 seat stadium and maybe another 60,000 seat stadium being required.

Casement Park in Belfast, while the favoured choice of venue for Northern Ireland's part in the Euro 2028 bid is currently closed and in a state of dereliction, with redevelopment plans pending now for several years. Picture:  Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Casement Park in Belfast, while the favoured choice of venue for Northern Ireland's part in the Euro 2028 bid is currently closed and in a state of dereliction, with redevelopment plans pending now for several years. Picture:  Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Belfast concern

In that situation, 11 or 12 grounds would likely be used across the host nations, with the biggest question mark hanging over Northern Ireland’s involvement.

Windsor Park, the home of the Northern Ireland team, was redeveloped a decade ago and even hosted the 2021 UEFA Super Cup match between Chelsea and Sevilla, but its current capacity is just 18,544, which leaves it well behind the minimum requirement of 30,000. This leaves the bidders with a decision to make over whether to support another renovation at Windsor Park or to try to use Antrim GAA's Casement Park instead. Casement Park may be a more suitable venue but it has been abandoned for nearly a decade now. It was set to start a two-year renovation, this year, that would increase its capacity to 34,578, but this is currently subject to a judicial review as diverging parties and community groups fight over the planning.

While this is unfortunate for Northern Ireland and their part of the bid, it might open an opportunity for the inclusion of Cork and Páirc Uí Chaoimh as host city/stadium. While the assumption of a 24-team tournament really only allows for the inclusion of the Aviva Stadium and Croke Park in the bid. A 32-team event, with Belfast struggling to make the mark, might just allow Ireland's newest stadium to step into the gap.

Should this happen it would be a big financial boost to the city, not to mind Cork GAA's attempt to pay back their bill for the Páirc itself, even if only a couple of games were to be played there.

Of course, a fair bit of work would be required to bring it up to UEFA standards but noting in comparison to building an entirely new stadium as is the case in Belfast.

The Aviva Stadium is the only guaranteed Irish venue to be part of the UK and Ireland's joint Euro 2028 bid. Picture: Cian O'Regan
The Aviva Stadium is the only guaranteed Irish venue to be part of the UK and Ireland's joint Euro 2028 bid. Picture: Cian O'Regan

Making the list

The anchor stadiums of the bid are the home HQs of the bidding nations so most events will play out in London's Wembley Stadium, the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Hampden Park in Glasgow and the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

They are the certainties to be used. Other grounds most likely to be included will be Croke Park in Dublin (again after some UEFA modifications), Murrayfield in Edinburgh, and the Premier league venues of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Old Trafford and The Etihad Stadium in Manchester, Anfield and Everton’s new Bramley-Moore Dock stadium in Liverpool. The Everton stadium being the most questionable one only by dint of the fear of their relegation at the end of this season.

 Croke Park, with some updating, would be an exciting venue for Euro 2028. Picture Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
 Croke Park, with some updating, would be an exciting venue for Euro 2028. Picture Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Other stadiums mentioned include Newcastle's St James Park, Leicester's King Power Stadium, Villa Park in Birmingham. Elland Road has also made the list, which would raise hopes for Páirc Uí Chaoimh's inclusion as the old Yorkshire venue is hardly up to UEFA Euro 28 standards itself.

As of yet, we don't know the process of city selection but if the competition hit 32 qualifiers then there should be a push to get Cork and Páirc Uí Chaoimh into that process.

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