Thursday 12 December 2019

State lines up €20m Euros payday

FAI reaches endgame in bid to be one of 13 hosts for Euro 2020

The Aviva Stadium in Dublin could host lucrative games in the 2020 soccer European Championships. Photo: Sportsfile
The Aviva Stadium in Dublin could host lucrative games in the 2020 soccer European Championships. Photo: Sportsfile

John Greene, Sports Editor

The Government has intensified efforts to make Dublin a destination of choice for lucrative international sports events, as ambitious plans to host four games at the Euro 2020 soccer finals reach end game. At stake is a multimillion euro economic boost, with each game at this level worth some €20m to the economy.

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) will this week finalise a bid to be one of 13 'host' cities for the tournament in six years' time knowing that if it succeeds, and if the Republic of Ireland can then go on to qualify for the tournament, they are guaranteed at least two pool games at the Aviva Stadium.

Work on the bid, which last week received the backing of the Cabinet, has intensified in recent weeks as the April 25 deadline looms.

It's thought that 32 European cities have expressed an interest in bidding for one of the three Euro 2020 packages on offer from UEFA. The top package is to stage the final and both semi-finals, while next is a four-game offer of three group games and a quarter-final.

The FAI, however, is targeting the third package, which consists of three group games and a round-of-16 game. Eight cities will be awarded this right, and because UEFA will place some emphasis on geographical spread, it is thought Dublin's direct competition will come from Glasgow, Cardiff, Amsterdam and possibly Lisbon.

Hosting four games in Euro 2020 would be worth tens of millions to the economy. The FAI believes that the outstanding success it enjoyed in staging the Europa League final in 2011 will stand to it during this bidding process.

The economic benefit of hosting such big sporting events is often overstated, but some experts put the value of that one game three years ago to Dublin at over €20m.

"I am delighted the FAI is making this bid," sports minister Michael Ring told the Sunday Independent. "They are putting a professional bid together and four matches in Dublin is very achievable. It would be great for the country, great for tourism and for sport. John Delaney [the FAI's chief executive] knows his way around European football and I am confident we will succeed."

If the Republic of Ireland were to qualify – and the chances of this have been enhanced by the recent decision to expand the number of teams taking part from 16 to 24 – then that too would create a significant influx of revenue to the capital.

The 13 successful city bids will be announced in September. Last week's Cabinet backing was significant. Although there is no cost to the State in terms of capital spending, the support of Dublin City Council and the Gardai, and a number of semi-state bodies such as the Dublin Airport Authority, Dublin Bus and Failte Ireland is central to the bid.

Ring, meanwhile, has just been to Italy with MLA Alastair Ross to promote next month's Giro d'Italia 'Big Start'.

The Giro will spend three days in Ireland, starting in Belfast on May 9 and Ring and Ross were in Milan to meet with key stakeholders in the event, including members of the travel industry and national media. Their visit drew widespread publicity, particularly in the Gazetta dello Sport, one of the world's largest sports-only daily newspapers.

With a global TV audience of 775 million, it's estimated the event will generate €13m worth of international media coverage and a significant increase in visitor numbers. Last year, there were 250,000 visitors to Ireland from Italy.

"We learned everything stops in Italy for three weeks during the Giro," commented Ring on the visit to Milan. "They love cycling, and there will be huge exposure for Ireland at the start."

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