Northern Ireland says it remains part of Britain and Ireland’s bid to host Euro 2028, despite a warning from Stormont’s minister that support cannot fundamentally be provided at this stage.
UP Business Secretary Gordon Lyons said the lack of a properly functioning executive to share power and an agreed budget meant the region could not commit to “in principle” supporting the bid offered by England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland.
Lyon’s own party smashed the executive branch last month by withdrawing First Minister Paul Givan from government in protest at Brexit’s Northern Ireland protocol.
However, the Football Association of Ireland said on Friday: “We had an urgent meeting with the Business Secretary this morning where he clarified his comments and reaffirmed his commitment to working with us.
“We are happy with that and look forward to contributing to an exciting bid for Euro 2028.”
A statement from the five bidder associations on Wednesday, confirming that they have submitted an expression of interest (EOI) to UEFA to host the tournament, acknowledged the particular difficulties facing Northern Ireland.
“The governments of the UK, Ireland, Scotland and Wales have confirmed their support for the EOI filing and as the Executive of Northern Ireland is not formally meeting at this time officials there continue to monitor the process closely,” it said.
In a letter to the remaining members of the Executive, seen by the PA news agency, Lyons had written: “The cross-cutting nature of Northern Ireland’s involvement in the Euros (bid) and the lack of both a decision-making mechanism and an agreed budget means that NI is cannot fundamentally support the offer at this stage.”
The minister said his officials will continue to monitor work on the bid, with the possibility that a future executive will agree to formally back the endeavor at a later date.
He said a proposed £101.6m investment in Northern Ireland’s alignment with the euro would yield a return of £217m.
That cost-benefit analysis, he said, is based on Euro 2028 with 32 teams, as widely expected, and Northern Ireland hosting seven finals matches.
Following the IFA statement, the Lyon office was contacted for further comment.
The national football stadium at Windsor Park in Belfast has a capacity of 18,500 – well below the minimum of 30,000 required to host matches at the European Championship.
Games could potentially be played at the nearby Gaelic Athletic Association’s Casement Park, but it is currently derelict. A plan to convert the venue into a 34,500 capacity stadium has been plagued by delay and controversy and is currently the subject of a number of legal challenges brought up by West Belfast residents.
On Thursday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said he was “fully committed” to backing Britain and Ireland’s bid after appearing to suggest in interviews earlier that day that the 2028 finals should be awarded to Ukraine.
Johnson described Russia’s shock decision to state its interest in hosting either Euro 2028 or 2032 amid its invasion of Ukraine as “beyond satire”. His spokesman said the prime minister would welcome UEFA’s rejection of Russia’s bid.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/international-soccer/northern-ireland-serious-about-remaining-part-of-joint-bid-to-stage-euro-2028-despite-dup-warning-41487749.html Northern Ireland are serious about remaining part of joint Euro 2028 bid despite DUP warning