Wednesday 22 October 2014

Delaney confident of seeing off Scottish and Welsh Euro bids

Published 17/04/2014 | 02:30

16 April 2014; FAI Chief Executive John Delaney speaking at the announcement of the Irish Sports Council's funding for the FAI, IRFU and GAA for 2014. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
FAI chief executive John Delaney is confident Ireland bid to host part of the Euro 2020 finals will be a success. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

FAI chief executive John Delaney has suggested that Ireland could end up in a battle with regional rivals Scotland and Wales to host part of Euro 2020, but is confident that their government-backed bid can prevail.

The finishing touches are being put to a proposal that will be submitted at the end of this month with UEFA deciding in September which 13 cities will host the novelty tournament that will be spread across the continent.

Ireland is looking to stage a package with three group games and a round-of-16 encounter and it is expected that the smaller nations in the group of 32 that initially expressed interest will aim for that bundle as opposed to competing for the latter rounds where Turkey are favourites to host the semis and final. The other big guns will aim for quarter-final-dominated packages.

Delaney suspects that UEFA will split it regionally.

"Firstly, you've got to meet stringent technical criteria," he said.

"But I think it would be geography-political. I think it will go north, south, east and west. I think England, naturally, with Wembley will have a great opportunity at least to the quarter-finals, if not a semi-final and final."

His Scottish counterpart Stewart Regan had previously suggested that a British and Irish hub could reap dividends for the applicants from this part of the world but it is highly unlikely all four entrants would be successful.

The finer points of the bid become crucial if it comes down to a straight fight between Ireland, Scotland and Wales with details such as the second terminal in Dublin Airport taking on significance.

"It's very helpful for the segregation of supporters," said Delaney. "There was a lot of criticism of the second terminal at one stage but I am not complaining as it helps our bid."

Ireland would host two home games in Dublin if they qualified for the tournament although that will be a job in itself given the age profile of Martin O'Neill's squad. James McCarthy, who turns 24 later this year, was the youngest member of the squad for the March friendly with Serbia.

Delaney was speaking at the Sports Council event in the Aviva Stadium where Minister Michael Ring announced a €7.4m investment in grassroots sports for 2014 with €2.7m of that figure going to the FAI.

Irish football's most powerful official was asked if he was disappointed with the shortage of young Irishmen knocking on the door of the top English clubs and what that says about the domestic system of player production.

"There are always swings and roundabouts at elite level," he said. "We have a lot of clubs to satisfy but certainly the facilities around the country have improved immensely.

The Emerging Talent Programme has made a significant improvement. Ruud Dokter's appointment (as High Performance Director) is another step towards that.

"The consultation process has started on the U-17 national league and that's another big piece of the jigsaw.

"We are looking at a national development plan agreed by our board by August or September."

Delaney dismissed concerns about the departure of the FAI's finance director Tony Dignam to a position with Compass, saying the association was in a stable position going forward.

He admitted meetings have taken place with the Regional Development Officers who took a 10pc pay cut 18 months ago.

"We gave them our thoughts in terms of what we are going to do in terms of restoring pay and some aspects," he said.

Delaney added that only minor issues are holding up the announcement of the US friendlies with Costa Rica (June 6, Philadelphia) and Portugal (June 10, New York).

"There are TV issues to be worked out, that sort of stuff," he said.

Irish Independent

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