Tuesday 20 March 2018

Euro vision out of focus

John Greene

John Greene

It is difficult to see the European Championships coming to these shores in eight years' time, despite the news last week that the FAI is considering a joint bid with Scotland and Wales to host the European Championships in 2020. This initial expression of interest is unlikely to become a full-scale bid.

There have been plenty of reasons offered up as to why this is so over the last few days, but the truth is most of the obstacles are surmountable, and this includes stadia, because Ireland, Scotland and Wales can easily deliver on that front, and there would not be much investment required either.

No, the real problem is a political one. The current government is little over a year into what we have to assume will be a ten-year term. Even if there is a change in coalition partners, it's highly unlikely that Fine Gael will lose its position as the largest party in the state in that time.

And although sports minister Michael Ring was quick to describe last week's news as "an exciting development", which indeed it may well be, the government has already clearly got behind the idea of Ireland hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2023. In February, the Sunday Independent reported a senior official as saying that "something concrete is happening".

Ring, and Leo Varadkar, are both keen to entice a major sporting event to these shores and the Rugby World Cup is the front-runner, and not just because it was first out of the traps, but also because having seen it achieved by New Zealand last autumn, it is now considered realistic.

But hosting any such event does not come cheap. The New Zealand government forked out almost €90m to the International Rugby Board in what are known as 'hosting fees', a large chunk of which came directly out of the public purse. This is the other side of hosting a major sporting event, paying for the privilege if you like, as we saw with the Ryder Cup when it was held here.

The decision on who will host the UEFA championships in 2020 will be made in early 2014; the decision on 2023 is likely to be made the following year, at the earliest. Both decision dates fall within the lifetime of the current government. Given that both will require major cash investment from the state, and given that the country is broke and will be for years to come, and given that Fine Gael is further down the road in its support of RWC, it's hard to see a bid to host the Euros getting past first base. The money just isn't there.


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