Ireland qualifying for next year’s Fifa World Cup Finals in Russia would be a “mini Christmas” for local business around the country, boosting the local economies by millions, writes Pádraig Hoare.
That is according to various business groups, firms and financial lenders around the country, who said an Irish presence in the biggest sporting event in the world would boost SMEs and even job creation in the weeks that the team was in the 32-team finals next June and July.
Martin O’Neill’s charges face a two-legged playoff with Denmark to qualify for the finals. A result against the Danes in Copenhagen tonight would set the team up for its biggest game in 15 years in Dublin on Tuesday night.
The Republic of Ireland last qualified for a World Cup Finals in 2002 in Japan and South Korea, where the unusual sight of full bars and sporting clubs in the morning became the norm as the team played Cameroon, Germany and South Korea in the Asian timezone before succumbing to Spain in the second round.
Although Ireland qualified for the European Championships in France in 2016 and Poland and Ukraine in 2012, the World Cup has traditionally been seen as the most popular sporting event among supporters at home and abroad.
Legendary evenings in the USA in 1994 when Ireland beat Italy in New Jersey, and beating Romania on penalties in the second round in Italy in 1990 remain the most famous occasions for Irish sport.
Chief executive of Cork Business Association (CBA), Lawrence Owens said the impact of Ireland in a World Cup was huge for the city centre.
“There is a whole marketing and commercial spin-off for businesses when Ireland qualifies for a World Cup. It is not just bars that benefit, but businesses across the city. That positivity is infectious and it means an extra few euro spent to normal,” he said.
Paddy Power Betfair spokesman Paddy Power said the World Cup with Ireland in it was a “mini Christmas” for business and punters alike.
“If Ireland gets there, it adds to an already huge occasion. You have firms actually drawing up business plans just for the tournament. You can just imagine if Ireland drew Brazil in a group — the marketing opportunities for businesses are huge,” he said.
Credit unions are ready and willing to engage with eager punters after the final whistle on Tuesday if Ireland have qualified, a spokeswoman for the Irish League of Credit Unions said.
“Whether it be Italia ’90, USA ‘94 or Japan 2002, credit unions have always been happy to assist supporters in their quest to attend the World Cup. This time around will be no different,” she said.