The Football Association are ready to seek the Government green light to press ahead with a joint UK and Ireland bid to host Euro 2028 instead of World Cup 2030.
Sportsmail exclusively revealed on October 16 that plans for a joint UK effort to host the World Cup in 2030 were to be canned due to a lack of support from UEFA, who prefer Spain and Portugal to be Europe’s main host bid.
The same report indicated that a plot to host the European Championships in 2028 was emerging, with those plans now understood to be significantly advanced.
While no final decision will be made until a Whitehall feasibility study into the merits of a World Cup 2030 bid is completed within the next six weeks – it is widely accepted that the focus will switch to hosting Euro 2028, with the report’s findings set to recommend disregarding a World Cup bid.
While the probe is still headlined ‘World Cup 2030’ the details will outline why Euro 2028 is the best option for all, with some consideration included on the merits of a Euro 2032 tender.
The FA are ready to get the green light to hold a joint UK and Ireland bid to host Euro 2028
There is a sense Boris Johnson’s legacy may benefit from a successful effort to stage the Euros
The study is being led by the FA’s departing Head of Business Management, David Courell, who will leave St George’s Park in the coming weeks to take up the role of Chief Operations Officer with the Football Association of Ireland.
Courell is a former Deloitte consultant and has worked for the London 2012 Olympics, where he was venue operations manager at the London Stadium.
A senior UEFA source said Courell’s feasibility study was ‘greatly influenced by UEFA’s desire to bring an end to the World Cup bid’, but will include its own findings into the pros and cons of such a tender.
A probe will outline why Euro 2028 is the best option for all instead of the 2030 World Cup
‘Officially the study is still for 2030 and that will be covered in detail, but the investigation was effectively flipped into a Euros project once UEFA announced its preference for a Spain-Portugal bid,’ said the source.
UEFA has also moved to clarify that Euro 2028 remains a 24 team tournament amid suggestions that it could be expanded to a 32 nation format.
‘Nothing has been discussed in regards to the possibility of 32 teams competing at UEFA EURO 2028,’ said UEFA in its short statement to Sportsmail.
‘At present, we can only refer you to the bidding guidelines for UEFA Euro 2028, which were published a couple of months ago (and which declare a 24 team tournament).’
UEFA prefer Spain and Portugal to be Europe’s main host bid, as was reported by Sportsmail
The Football Association of Ireland is the first federation to indicate publicly that it was now looking at flipping the FA’s feasibility study into another competition – without naming Euro 2028.
In a statement it said: ‘The feasibility assessment includes a number of key work streams to identify the winnability, likely costs and the benefits of hosting the tournament.
‘To ensure we can make an informed decision, we will incorporate all other hosting opportunity evaluations in our assessments.’
But before effectively switching horses, the respective FAs will hold talks with senior Government officials to gain approval for the change.
The respective FAs will hold discussions with senior Government officials to gain the approval
Those discussions, it is understood, will also include any potential consequences that ditching the 2030 bid in favour of 2028 will have on the £500million worth of investment the Government pledged for grassroots football if an effort to host the World Cup in eight years was successful.
Of course, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s stewardship in crisis due to the lockdown party scandal that has rocked Parliament, plans to sit down with the Government have been put on the backburner for the time being.
But with the deadline to submit applications to host Euro 2028 with UEFA on March 23, there is an understanding that talks cannot be delayed for too long.
With the FA privately aware that a bid for the Euro 2028 is likely to have far more scope for success than one for the World Cup 2030, there is a sense that underfire Johnson’s legacy could benefit if he was at the forefront of a successful effort to host a major international football tournament.
Prime Minister Johnson said in the aftermath of the Euro 2020 final that he still hoped the UK & Ireland could host the World Cup in 2030 (pictured left: FIFA president Gianni Infantino)
Indeed, there is burgeoning hope at home nation FAs that a bid to host Euro 2028 would stand a good chance of winning.
It is understood that Italy could provide strong competition to the UK and Ireland bid, however sources have indicated to Sportsmail that they may focus on a bid to hold Euro 2032.
Russia have also been mooted as possible contenders to host Euro 2028, but the fact they held the World Cup in 2018 could be viewed as ‘politically unacceptable’.