UEFA have officially announced that EURO 2028 will take place in Ireland and Britain, and while this news is to be welcomed, the real legacy of the tournament will be in how it impacts the domestic game in the long-term.
While politicians both north and south have said that the bid will benefit Irish football, the devil, as always, is in the details. Both the Football Association of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Football League have recently announced plans to further develop the game in Ireland. Both plans, for example, will require government support to modernise stadiums and invest in academies. With respect to those plans, this tournament will only be a success if, as FAI CEO Johnathan Hill hopes, it allows us “to build a framework to invest in facilities and wider initiatives.”
The commitment to redevelop Casement Park, a GAA ground in west Belfast, for the tournament is a noble one, but it is only fair that domestic soccer also receives its fair share from this tournament. There are countless football stadiums, such as Oriel Park in Dundalk and The Oval in Belfast, in need of funding for redevelopment, and they must not be forgotten or swept under the rug.
€6.2 million from the tournament has been ring fenced for the development of Irish football by the FAI. While more investment is always to be welcomed, it is fair to say that this sum will not change the world when you consider how many stakeholders will be rightfully looking for their fair share of it. Put in comparison, the greyhound racing industry will receive €19 million from the government in 2024 alone, as highlighted by journalist Gavin Cooney.
It is important for politicians, both north and south, who will be posing for photo-ops come 2028 to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to supporting Irish football. It is one of the most played and followed sports in Ireland, and serious investment and support is needed from government if we are to take ourselves seriously as a sporting nation.