From 19 applicants across Europe, Dublin is bidding to be one of the 13 cities who will stage games at the finals. If successful, the joint FAI and Dublin City Council bid would see three group games and one knockout match played at the Aviva Stadium – or, as Uefa, in deference to its own sponsors insist on calling it, the ‘Dublin Arena’. And should Ireland qualify for the finals in six years’ time, the team would also be rewarded with two home games.
Uncertainty about the chances of Dublin’s success arises in part from what one source close to the bid calls the “complex, multi-layered though transparent structure” of the decision-making process, by which the Uefa Executive Committee, who are meeting in Geneva this morning, must first break the tournament down into geographical regions before deciding on the winning cities.
And although the supposition is that one such region would be Ireland/UK – meaning, with London’s Wembley Stadium already the hot favourite to secure the final and semi-finals, that Dublin’s direct rivals would be Cardiff and Glasgow — there has been no definitive indication from Uefa that this will indeed be the case. Geopolitical concerns will also come into play and will influence the outcome of this morning’s final deliberations.
With everything to play for then, Irish representatives were still lobbying in Geneva late last night in the expectation that the process could go right down to the wire.
However, in what should count as a significant boost to the Dublin bid, Uefa have already given a glowing review to the city’s technical submission, scoring it highly on stadium facilities, hotel accommodation and transport, with the capital’s two airport terminals regarded as a particular boon to the smooth movement of fans.
The fact that the Aviva Stadium has already successfully hosted the Europa League final, in May 2011, is considered another plus, while Uefa president Michel Platini’s desire to see nations who couldn’t host an entire tournament get a slice of the 2020 cake should also, work in Ireland’s favour.
The 19 cities still in the running are Baku, Minsk, Brussels, Sofia, Copenhagen, London, Skopje, Munich, Budapest, Jerusalem, Rome, Amsterdam, Dublin, Bucharest, Saint Petersburg, Glasgow, Bilbao, Stockholm and Cardiff.
The Irish delegation in Geneva today includes Sports Minister Michael Ring, FAI chief executive John Delaney, Dublin City Council executive manager Paul Clegg, Aviva Stadium Director Martin Murphy and Euro 2020 Project Director Declan Conroy.
Meanwhile, on the back of successive victories over Oman and Georgia, Ireland have risen four places to 62 in the latest FIFA world rankings.