Irish hopes of co-hosting 2030 World Cup in doubt as FIFA President welcomes China bid
The FAI's hopes of co-hosting the 2030 World Cup with Britain were plunged into doubt on Wednesday when FIFA president Gianni Infantino said he hoped the rules would be changed to let China bid, too.
Under the 'rotation' rules used for the most recent contest, countries from a confederation that has hosted one of the two previous World Cups are not allowed to bid.
With China's fellow Asian Football Confederation member Qatar staging the tournament in 2022, this would appear to rule out a bid from the world's most populous nation and second largest economy.
But speaking to reporters in Paris after his unopposed re-election as FIFA boss, Infantino confirmed the rumours that have been circulating in recent months: the regulations for 2030 could be ripped up, paving the way for a blockbuster bid from China.
Asked for an update on the rules and timeline for the bidding process, the Swiss-Italian said: "I don't know because these decisions are taken by (FIFA's ruling) council and we will discuss this at our next meeting in October, which is in Shanghai.
"We'll put some marks down in terms of timing then...the next presidential election is in 2023, so the World Cup vote will be in 2022 or 2024.
"We'll also see if there can be a bid from China but, for me, the more, the merrier."
It is widely believed that 2022 will be too soon to stage a bidding contest, so it seems certain that the final decision will be taken at the 2024 FIFA Congress.
Having lost bids for the 2006 and 2018 World Cups in embarrassing fashion, the English Football Association has been considering another go for several years and has been in talks with the FAI, and their Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts about a joint bid for at least 12 months.
They are currently conducting a 'feasibility study' to work out if it is worth bidding and have said they will only go for it if they believe there is a genuine chance of success.
When the main potential rival was a joint South American bid from Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, it seemed as if an Irish/British bid was a certainty but the field was getting more congested even before a Chinese challenger emerged.