Neighbours become rivals as Ireland bids to host Euro 2020 matches
IRELAND faces tough competition from our nearest neighbours to secure a soccer windfall from Euro 2020.
The FAI and the Government are hoping that a bid lodged yesterday to host four games at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin during the UEFA tournament will be successful.
England, Scotland and Wales have also lodged bids for three group games and a knockout match.
FAI chief executive John Delaney said our bid would push the fact the tournament coincides with the football association's 100th anniversary.
UEFA has asked all bidding cities to provide detailed files, including information on stadiums, transport, hotels, airports, fan zones and government guarantees. Mr Delaney told the Irish Independent last night that bringing the games here would give the economy a big boost.
"We've put our best foot forward from a technical point of view, but I would expect most of the bids to be strong bids. If you look at even our own geographical area, England, Scotland and Wales are all putting forward cities," he said.
While authorities may have to spend millions to put significant infrastructure in place to deal with the tens of thousands of fans, it's expected the event could bring tens of millions to the Irish economy.
"We hosted the Europa League Final here in 2011 and that was a big success. But that was one match – this would be four games," Mr Delaney said.
"There'd be a huge logistical exercise if we were fortunate enough to get it, but that would be a great problem to have."
Tournament hosts are now expected to erect large fan zones to facilitate supporters, while a major policing plan would also have to be put in place.
The FAI submitted its application to UEFA ahead of the closing date yesterday to host three group matches and one last 16 match as part of the championship in six years time.
UEFA will announce the 13 host cities at a ceremony in Geneva on September 19. There is expected be up to 30 bids for either a package of three group games and a knock-out match, or the package of final matches.
Our application has received widespread support, from Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar to the gardai and Failte Ireland.
However, Mr Delaney said he expects equally strong bids from most of the applicants and that Dublin's proximity to a number of top cities could present a weakness.
He said the cities of London, Glasgow and Cardiff have strong reputations from hosting UEFA Champions League and Heineken Cup finals.
The tournament is usually held in one or two countries every four years but bosses have decided to stage a "Euro for Europe" in 2020 right across the continent. It will mark the 60th anniversary of the first competition.
Wembley in London has become the favourite to host the semi-finals and final of the 2020 tournament. Previous favourite Istanbul had the support of Uefa president Michel Platini, but the Turkish Football Federation withdrew its bid yesterday in an effort to land the "whole tournament" in 2024.
That left England to slug it out with the likes of Germany for the opportunity to stage the final three matches of Euro 2020..