By Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter
The UK and Ireland should focus on the “achievable” target of hosting Euro 2028 and ditch their 2030 World Cup “vanity project”, the chair of the UK Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee has said.
The Times reported on Wednesday that the five associations were poised to scrap their plans to bid for the centenary World Cup and switch focus to Euro 2028 instead.
Association leaders are reported to have been told a World Cup bid would be less likely to succeed because of political deal-making at FIFA, and that a Euros bid would be a better bet.
DCMS committee chair Julian Knight welcomed the reports, although he felt it was England’s international reputation which would have been most likely to scupper any chance of success.
“Everyone knows that the furore over a World Cup bid is a giant, expensive vanity project,” he told the PA news agency.
“It’s sad as we are ideally suited to hosting a tournament, but we have huge reputation problems in the international game.
“So it’s best to aim our sights at something achievable, drop the ‘we are the home of football’ malarkey, reform our domestic game and focus on winning and delivering a really great Euros.”
Knight described the idea of a World Cup bid as “utter nonsense” during a committee hearing involving Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston in November last year, after bids to host the 2006 and 2018 World Cups had ended in abject failure.
At that time, Huddleston said he did not agree with Knight, arguing the FIFA administration – and bidding process – was now very different compared to how it looked at the time of those previous bids.
Huddleston also said at the time that he did not feel the disorder at Wembley on the day of the Euro 2020 final last July had “put the kibosh” on the UK and Ireland’s chances of hosting another major tournament in the near future.
The Football Association and Wembley still clearly have the confidence of UEFA, which has chosen to stage the ‘Finalissima’ match between European champions Italy and Copa America winners Argentina at the London venue in June. England is also hosting the Women’s Euro this summer.
Relations between UEFA and FIFA have become especially strained in recent months, in particular over the latter’s proposals to introduce biennial World Cups. That would make it difficult for anyone within UEFA to say to one of its member associations with any degree of certainty that a European bid for 2030 had a chance of success.
A firm decision on which tournament to go for will have to be taken by those involved in the 2030 feasibility study group soon.
UEFA announced last year that parties interested in hosting Euro 2028 need to confirm that interest by March 23, with the bidders to be announced on April 5.
🏆 ICYMI: The bidding process for UEFA EURO 2028 has been confirmed.
— UEFA (@UEFA) October 13, 2021
At the same time, it said that bids from more than two host associations being chosen, automatic qualification for all associations could not be guaranteed. However, it is understood there is a strong chance of those finals being expanded from 24 to 32 qualifiers which may open up more automatic slots.
In FIFA’s proposals, 2028 is earmarked as the first year in the new biennial World Cup cycle.
FIFA will confirm bidding regulations for the 2030 finals in the first half of this year, and it has previously said that a decision on who will host the tournament would be taken at its 2024 Congress.
A South American bid for the finals would have a sentimental attraction after Uruguay hosted the inaugural tournament in 1930.