As the joint Irish and British bid to host UEFA Euro 2028 looks set to succeed unopposed, questions must be asked about the future of football in Ireland, according to Workers’ Party representatives both north and south.

David Gardiner, Workers’ Party representative for Palmerstown-Fonthill and a lifelong St. Patrick’s Athletic supporter, said:

“While it will be great to see some of the world’s best playing in Ireland should the bid succeed, we should be asking ourselves what we can do to push Irish football, both domestically and internationally, to a higher level.”

“Football, the most-played sport in the country, serves various purposes. It keeps people, young and old alike, active at grassroots level, it gives our communities something to follow in the form of their local League of Ireland and Irish League sides, and it allows us to compete on the international stage in the world’s game. These three levels need to be better linked up and supported if we want to increase the quality of football in Ireland.”

“The FAI, in a recently announced plan, have acknowledged the need for this player pathway that starts at grassroots, moves through the League of Ireland and continues all the way up to the national team. We now need a commitment from the government to provide the funding to benefit the countless communities across the country who love this game.”

“From the increase in League of Ireland attendance figures to the women’s national team qualifying for the World Cup, there is a serious buzz around Irish football at the minute and we need to make the most of it.”

“The lack of funding that football receives from the betting levy, for example, is one such area where we could improve, but we must also think in terms of larger scale projects.”

“If we want to ensure football is available as an option for all of our young people, if we want to see Irish clubs regularly competing in the group stages of European competition, and if we want to see the national team making a serious impact in international tournaments, we need the government to take the funding of the sport seriously.”

From Belfast, Workers’ Party spokesperson Peter Sullivan said:

“Although Ireland cohosting the tournament would be welcome, the bidding process leaves a number of questions to be asked of the Irish Football Association.”

“The only stadium in the north included in the bid is Casement Park. Not only do the IFA nor any of their member clubs own this stadium, it isn’t even built to the necessary capacity yet. It is worrying that their sole stadium contribution to the bid, which is being borrowed from the GAA, isn’t even guaranteed to be ready on time.”

“Like in the south, there needs to be greater investment into grassroots and Irish League football. The increase in crowds and interest in Irish League needs to be capitalised on while the chance is there. This, however, is made extremely difficult due to the failure of the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin to form an Executive in Stormont. There are much more pressing reasons why we need it back, but the need for community recreation is important as well. It is yet another area where we are being let down.”

“As much as cohosting the Euros is to be welcomed, we must remember that the responsibility of the FAI and IFA is to communities and clubs on this island, and there remains a lot to be done to ensure the success of football here on both the domestic and international stage.”