The dream of Ireland hosting European Championship finals football has moved a step closer withconfirmation from UEFA that Euro 2020 will be a multi-host tournament.
The decision to stage the tournament in cities across the continent was welcomed yesterday by the FAI who will be expected to formally express their interest when the bidding process commences next March.
It’s understood that the subject has already been raised in discussions between FAI Chief Executive John Delaney and UEFA President Michel Platini during the latter’s recent visit to Dublin.
The so-called “Euro for Europe” idea is the brainchild of Platini and while it’s being stressed that 2020 will be a one-off event, it still represents a radical departure from the traditional model of one or two countries hosting European football’s biggest tournament.
From 2016 onwards, the European Championship finals will be expanded to 24 competing nations and, for 2020, Platini has already indicated his preference that 13 cities would be involved, with 12 hosting four games each and one city hosting the semi-finals and final. Yesterday, the English FA moved quickly to express an interest in staging the concluding games at Wembley. Wales and Scotland have also confirmed they will bid for matches – including a possible bid for a final in Glasgow to rival Wembley’s.
If fixtures from various groups are spread around a number of host cities as part of a regional hub, then the Aviva Stadium should alone be able to meet UEFA’s requirements if Dublin is chosen. But if the host cities were expected to accommodate an entire group, for example, then for the capital to be in the running, Croke Park would also have to come into the equation.
While the format and number of cities to be involved will be decided by UEFA’s national teams committee — and it will be the spring of 2014 before the host venues are identified — Infantino confirmed there would be no automatic qualification for host countries and that some hosts may even fail to qualify. He said UEFA would attempt to ensure that host nations played at least some of their matches in their home cities.
There are logistical issues involving tax laws and fan transport, and UEFA will consider having regional ‘hubs’ such as Scandinavia for group games.
Jonathan Ford, chief executive of the Football Association of Wales, confirmed it would make a bid with the Millennium Stadium – perhaps as part of a British/Irish hub.
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