The home nations and Ireland are to launch a joint bid for the men’s European Championship in 2028 after plans to host the 2030 World Cup were abandoned.
The decision was made after a feasibility study into the 2030 tournament found “many areas of uncertainty” according to the Football Association’s chief executive, Mark Bullingham. A 2030 bid was proposed by the Conservative government in its 2019 manifesto and was described last year as “the right time” to “bring football home” by the prime minister, Boris Johnson.
“We think it’s a brilliant opportunity for the five federations and governments to come together,” Bullingham said of the 2028 bid. “This is the third biggest sports event in the world and we’ve got a good opportunity to bring it to our collective countries and make a massively positive impact.”
Bullingham said the feasibility study had concluded there was little financial difference in bidding for the World Cup over the European Championship. “We’ve looked at two fantastic events in the World Cup and men’s Euros, both of them are multi-billion impact events to our country, they’ve also got a similar return on investment,” he said. “The World Cup is more expensive to bid for and to host, but also generates more revenue.
“We’ve got a very clear bidding landscape and timeline for the Euros. When we assess everything we know we can put together a highly competitive bid. With the World Cup there’s many areas of uncertainty, in terms of the timeline [and] in terms of the frequency of the events and so on.”
The expectation that a feasibility study would find against a 2030 bid has been growing for months, largely due to the political background that often determines the choice of the winners. Spain and Portugal are expected to make a joint bid for 2030 which has already garnered favour with Uefa, while a joint South American proposal, on the centenary of the first World Cup in Uruguay, is likely to gain strong backing.
There also remains broader tension between Uefa and Fifa over the latter’s plan for a biennial World Cup. Bullingham, who claims to have received positive noises from Uefa over a 2028 bid, said competing to host the Euros in the same year as Fifa has proposed to launch a biennial World Cup shows how unlikely it is to happen in the view of the FA. “We don’t believe that [will] come to fruition,” he said.
Bullingham’s confidence in a 2028 bid was shared by the heads of the Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and Irish associations, which will all contribute even though Northern Ireland does not have a stadium large enough to host tournament football and the total number of matches remains uncertain. All are enthusiastic regarding the benefits the tournament would bring, not just in terms of direct revenues but also from helping to regenerate the coffers of Uefa, whose resources have been drained by Covid and whose funding mechanisms offer vital support to smaller federations such as Wales.
While the English FA has made its decision known to the UK government, the full support of Westminster has yet to be confirmed. A statement from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “Following a full feasibility study, and in light of the current uncertainty around the future format of the tournament, we accept the conclusion of the five Football Associations that now is not the moment to proceed with a bid. We remain passionate about bringing a World Cup to the UK and Ireland when the time is right.
“Meanwhile, the Uefa European Championships are one of the biggest global sporting events. Hosting the full tournament would be an exciting opportunity, bringing significant benefits to the whole of the UK and Ireland. That is why we have initiated work to explore the possibility of bidding to host Euro 2028. We hope to be able to confirm government support for a bid in the coming weeks.”