Boris Johnson warned he must be 'realistic' over British-Irish 2030 World Cup bid

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Tom Morgan
·4 min read
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Boris Johnson warned he must be 'realistic' over British-Irish 2030 World Cup bid
Boris Johnson warned he must be 'realistic' over British-Irish 2030 World Cup bid

Boris Johnson has been warned that Britain and Ireland could have a mountain to climb to land the 2030 World Cup amid expected rival bids from three front runners.

Uruguay-Argentina, Spain-Portugal and, to a lesser extent, China are all seen by senior footballing figures as being in a potentially stronger position to win favour with Fifa.

A combined bid from England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic now looks more likely than ever after fresh funding from the UK Government.

Governing bodies were handed an extra £2.8 million to launch the bid as the Prime Minister lent enthusiastic backing to a bid testing Britain’s global standing post-Brexit.

“We are very, very keen to bring football home in 2030,” he told The Sun. “I do think it’s the right place. It’s the home of football, it’s the right time. It will be an absolutely wonderful thing for the country.”

The cash commitment will be in tomorrow’s Budget, along with a £25 million fund to improve grass-roots facilities and a £300 million summer sport survival package revealed on Monday by Telegraph Sport.

With a British-Irish bid gaining traction, one source close to talks said there was “a need to be realistic” about the prospect of taking on South America, on the 100th anniversary of the first World Cup in Uruguay.

Even if it got to that stage, the British-Irish campaign would need to win favour from Uefa ahead of a joint Spain-Portugal bid. Fifa has in the past prioritised areas where it can see the game being developed most.

A statement from the home nations and Ireland confirmed the bid was being considered. “We will continue to undertake feasibility work to assess the viability of a bid before Fifa formally open the process in 2022,” it said.

“Staging a Fifa World Cup would provide an incredible opportunity to deliver tangible benefits for our nations.”

On Tuesday night Lord Coe, who led London to the 2012 Olympics but suffered defeat as a member of the 2018 World Cup bid, said Mr Johnson had used a "very tired mantra" by suggesting a new World Cup bid would "bring football home".

"The watchword for this campaign has to be 'humility'," Coe told Sky News. "If it's gone wrong in the past, it's because we have focused on the red-blooded notion of 'bringing football home' and 'we gave the game to the world'. That is a very tired mantra. We have to avoid it. This has to be a global bid and the bid team needs to be diverse and inclusive. But we all want to get behind it. This is something that is really worth going for."

The Fifa selection process is set to be launched in the second quarter of next year, with the final announcement scheduled to take place at the 2024 Fifa Congress. Under current rotation rules for global confederations, Qatar’s status as 2020 host was previously thought to stand in China’s way of staking its claim for 2030. However, Fifa has suggested that rule could be scrapped, which may in turn pave the way for China to emerge as a serious contender.

The Football Association and its partner associations are expected to agree on a 40,000-seat minimum for the bid. Northern Ireland’s Windsor Park has a capacity of just 18,000, but the other nations have stadiums big enough. Fifa has the final say on which venues would be used.

There is hope that a multi-nation approach would diffuse any anti-English feeling, particularly in Europe. England failed with attempts to host the 2006 and 2018 tournaments. With the latter, optimism gave way to humiliation when it was revealed England’s bid, which was fronted by David Beckham, Prince William and David Cameron, received just two of 22 votes.

Talk of bringing football home is unlikely to win this bid any friends.

Theresa May also backed the latest potential bid during her premiership.

UK Sport, meanwhile, had said hosting the 2030 World Cup would be the “crowning achievement” in events being scheduled for the home nations over the next 15 years. As well as the World Cup, the government’s elite sport agency would like to attract the starts of all three of cycling’s grand tours by 2025, stage a Ryder Cup in England and bid again for the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups.