Wednesday 26 June 2019

Ireland's hopes of co-hosting 2030 World Cup plunged into doubt following Gianni Infantino comments

Infantino:
Infantino: "We’ll also see if there can be a bid from China, but, for me, the more the merrier." Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Jamie Holland

Ireland's hopes of co-hosting the 2030 World Cup have been plunged into doubt after FIFA president Gianni Infantino said he is open to China entering the bidding race.

Representatives from the FAI are scheduled to meet with their counterparts from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland around this week's FIFA Congress.

Infantino was re-elected unopposed at the Paris gathering and used the event to indicate he would have no opposition to a Chinese proposal.

Under 'rotation' rules, 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, they were believed to be out of the race. However, Infantino confirmed the regulations for 2030 could be ripped up, paving the way for a blockbuster bid from China.

"These decisions are taken by (FIFA's ruling) council and we will discuss this at our next meeting in October, which is in Shanghai," said Infantino in Paris, where the FAI were represented by president Donal Conway.

Engaged

"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."

The FAI and their four neighbours have been engaged in a feasibility study to look into the prospect of a bid.

Executive vice-president John Delaney was central to initial discussions, but he is now sidelined and his long-term ally Declan Conroy - who is in charge of Ireland's project team for Euro 2020 - is also representing the FAI in the 2030 talks.

The English FA are the driving force and having missed out on 2006 and 2018, the feeling across the water is that they will only lodge a bid if they believe there's a chance of success.

A South American bid between Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay was thought to be the main rival as it's the 100-year anniversary of the inaugural staging in Montevideo.

The support of all 55 UEFA nations is also necessary for a successful campaign and president Aleksander Ceferin has said he would prefer one bid. Spain and Portugal are looking at a joint bid with Morocco, while Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Serbia may team up.

All of those candidates will be worried about China, as close observers of FIFA politics believe they have been promised a World Cup when they are ready.

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