Politicians and football associations have been warned that Britain and Ireland could have a mountain to climb to land the 2030 World Cup amid expected rival bids from three front-runners.
Uruguay-Argentina, Spain-Portugal and, to a lesser extent, China are all seen by senior footballing figures as being in a potentially stronger position to win favour with FIFA.
A combined bid from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic now looks more likely than ever after fresh funding from the UK government.
UK governing bodies were handed an extra £2.8m (€3.23m) to launch the bid as the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lent backing to the project, which would test Britain’s global standing post-Brexit. “We are very, very keen to bring football home in 2030,” he said. “It’s the home of football, it’s the right time.”
With a British-Irish bid gaining traction, one source said there was “a need to be realistic” about the prospect of taking on South America, on the 100th anniversary of the first World Cup in Uruguay.
Even if it got to that stage, the British-Irish campaign would need to win favour from UEFA ahead of a Spain-Portugal bid. FIFA has in the past prioritised areas where it can see the game being developed most.
A statement from the home nations and Ireland confirmed the bid was being considered. “We will continue to undertake feasibility work to assess the viability of a bid before FIFA formally open the process in 2022,” it said. “Staging a FIFA World Cup would provide an incredible opportunity to deliver tangible benefits for our nations.”
The FIFA selection process is set to be launched in the second quarter of next year, with the final announcement scheduled to take place at the 2024 FIFA Congress. Under current rotation rules for global confederations, Qatar’s status as 2020 host was previously thought to stand in China’s way of staking its claim for 2030. However, FIFA has suggested that rule could be scrapped, which may in turn pave the way for China to emerge as a serious contender.
The FA and its partner associations are expected to agree on a 40,000-seat minimum for the bid. Northern Ireland’s Windsor Park has a capacity of 18,000, but the other nations have stadiums big enough. FIFA has the final say on which venues would be used. England failed with attempts to host the 2006 and 2018 tournaments. With the latter, optimism gave way to humiliation when it was revealed England’s bid, received just two of 22 votes. Talk of bringing football home is unlikely to win this bid any friends.
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