FAI go whole hog to host 2024 Europa League



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Football Association of Ireland aiming Europa League Final 2024 Image: Buro Happold & Peter Barrow

With Dublin (Ireland) recently falling from the Union of European Football Association’s (UEFA) grace – stripped of rights to host the Euro 2020 games in June – the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) (governing body for association football in the Republic of Ireland) has instead turned their attention towards bidding to stage the 2024 Europa League final (Europe’s secondary club football tournament organized by UEFA).

‘The Irish Times’ stated that as per the association’s Chief Executive Jonathan Hill, the setback has also served to ensure their tilt to jointly host the 2030 World Cup is a “priority”.

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is the administrative body for football, futsal and beach soccer in Europe. It is one of the six continental confederations of world football’s governing body FIFA. UEFA consists of 55 national association members.

The UEFA Euro 2020 was postponed in March 2020 due to the global outbreak of coronavirus. As per the revised dates, it will be taking place from June 11th to July 11th, 2021.

The 2020 UEFA European Football Championship, commonly referred to as UEFA Euro 2020 or simply Euro 2020, is scheduled to be the 16th UEFA European Championship, the quadrennial international men’s football championship of Europe organized by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).

The 51,700-capacity Aviva Stadium in Dublin was stripped of their four matchups the facility was supposed to play host for the Euro 2020 showcase. The UEFA confirmed to the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) that the four games have been moved due to the public health situation in Ireland as a result of the deadly outbreak of COVID-19 which has caused enough devastation to the European island. UEFA had required an assurance of a minimum of 25 percent spectator attendance at each game which the Irish Government was unable to meet.

The UEFA also confirmed to the FAI that they are “welcoming a candidature by Dublin to host one of the European club finals after 2023”. Hence, the FAI is going the whole hog for playing host to the 2024 Europa League final.

‘The Irish Times’ further stated that the 68,000-capacity Saint Petersburg Stadium in Russia – where turnouts are expected to reach half capacity – have absorbed the three Group E games involving Poland, Slovakia and Sweden while a similarly buoyant English Football Association (FA) were the beneficiary once Dublin’s last-16 tie was up for grabs by securing an eight game for the 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium in London.

Ireland holds the unwelcome distinction of being the sole country from the original 12 granted hosting rights unable to meet UEFA’s revised demands on minimum onlookers for the Euro 2020 showpiece.

Dublin lost the hosting rights because they are not even open to the idea of a pilot. So, allowing 25 percent capacity is something which Ireland’s capital cannot even think of as COVID-19 continues to beat the country to pulp.

The global outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in March 2020 – which is continuing to ravage countries like India and Brazil – forced UEFA to postpone the spectacle by 12 months but retention of hosting was conditional on Cities guaranteeing attendances of at least 25 percent.

In Dublin’s case that translated into a crowd of 11,500, a prospect the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) was not willing to risk based upon their COVID-19 outlook for the lead-up to the event extraordinaire.

The National Public Health Emergency Team for COVID-19 is a National Public Health Emergency Team within Ireland’s Department of Health that oversees and provides national direction, support and guidance.

The authorities have yet to even greenlight an initiative by Leinster Rugby to use a fixture at the 5,500-capacity Waterford Regional Sports Centre (RSC) (Ireland) in late May for a pilot event, using rapid antigen testing to admit up to 2,000 fans.

Leinster Rugby is one of the four professional provincial rugby teams from the island of Ireland and the most successful Irish team both domestically and in European competition. They compete in the Pro14 and the European Rugby Champions Cup.

Munich (Germany) and the Spanish Government proved to be smarter than Dublin – though Bilbao (Spain) got the boot but Seville grabbed the opportunity to host the Euro 2020 prestigious event. Both the German and Spanish Government adopted a more optimistic approach than Ireland, assuring UEFA of allowing minimum fans to their respective arenas.

UEFA accepted Spain’s proposal of switching their matches from Bilbao to Seville on the basis of its superior progress in suppressing the virus.

Said Hill on Dublin missing the Euro 2020 bus, “The reality here is that circumstances beyond our control have led to the games being moved and we have to acknowledge that public health must come first in a global pandemic.”

Added Hill, “This is the end of the Euro 2020 project but the dedication and professionalism of all involved makes everyone at the FAI more determined than ever to bring big games and big tournaments to our country. I am delighted that UEFA have recognized our endeavors by agreeing to work with us on big projects for Dublin and Ireland in the future including the staging of a UEFA Club final at the Aviva Stadium after 2023 which is something to really look forward to as we enter our centenary year.”

Convinced that the failure of Dublin to deliver was, indeed, determined by external factors (read COVID clobber), UEFA plans to compensate for the same by dishing out a marquee event to Ireland’s capital.

Any prospect of a Champions League final coming to the Irish capital is out of question, as the 51,000-capacity does not measure up to the biggest event of UEFA’s annual calendar.

The team which worked by the sweat of their brows for Ireland to land the Euro 2020 event, including the Project Director Declan Conroy, are now working overtime to land the FIFA World Cup™ in 2030.

Hill continued, “We remain committed to working with our fellow associations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in relation to the feasibility study for hosting a FIFA World Cup in 2030. That remains a priority for us.”

Though the FAI move is being met with derision in some quarters but UEFA top guns are understood to be giving the proposal a serious consideration as the preferred bid from Europe.

The ascension of Irish Football Association President David Martin to the post of FIFA Vice-President recently is likely to work in favor of FAI, but the whole quest is expected to catch momentum until next year.

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