Opinion: a substantial financial investment into an idealistic tournament bid would be money better spent on local priorities

The FAI, the Irish Football Association, the English FA, the Football Association of Wales, and the Scottish FA have confirmed plans for a five-association bid to host the World Cup tournament in 2030. Although this move has been welcomed by many, the motivation behind it is mainly political and is not in the best interests of Irish sport.

The possibility of a joint bid for the five nations to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup was first announced in 2018. It is probably no coincidence that the announcement was made in the aftermath of a World Cup that Ireland failed to qualify for. Quite an expensive carrot to be dangling in front of disheartened Irish soccer fans: surely there are easier ways to qualify for a World Cup than hosting it?

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From RTÉ Radio 1's Morning Ireland, Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Sport Jack Chambers comments on the potential joint World Cup bid with the UK

Government officials have welcomed the planned bid and the subsequent optimistic soundbite opportunities that will follow, allowing for a distraction from more pressing issues that are within their remit. There has been concern over the disingenuous motivation behind the joint bid, especially in the politically fraught post-Brexit era. The UK is looking to host multiple major sporting events including soccer's World Cup, to assert global influence and attract trade deals in the uncertainty after Brexit. 

Despite promises by Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Sport Jack Chambers that Ireland "won't be found wanting" when it comes to playing its part in a potential joint bid, a World Cup will not solve the unrelenting problems in Irish sport including funding shortages, inadequate infrastructure and racism. The minister will undoubtedly use the bid as a way of creating unifying narratives in an otherwise troubled sporting world that has been upended by empty fixture lists and events behind closed doors. Beware of being invited to be part of Jack Chambers’ army.

Getting ready to welcome millions of visitors to a city for an event of this magnitude takes years of planning, lots of compromise and plenty of money. Money is not exactly a strength of the FAI at present, with the association currently boasting debts of over €60 million. A substantial financial investment into an idealistic World Cup bid would be an extreme distortion of local priorities. How might this international extravaganza benefit grassroots soccer clubs or sub-standard League of Ireland grounds in need of repair?

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From RTÉ 2fm's Game On, journalist Mark Langdon discusses the possibility of the 2030 World Cup taking place in the UK and Ireland

If the joint bid goes ahead, we will undoubtedly be sold the dream of a Brazil vs Argentina classic final at Croke Park. In reality, we will probably get a humdrum 0-0 draw between Japan and Denmark in the group stages. And God knows Irish soccer fans have tolerated enough encounters with the Denmark side over the past few years, having faced them in six qualifiers and Nations League fixtures since 2016.

The bid for the 2030 World Cup comes off the back of England losing out in bids for the 2006 and 2018 competitions. The bid for the 2018 tournament in particular was an embarrassing and expensive affair, with the humiliation being marred by resignations, accusations of corruption and their plan to give luxury handbags to the wives of the 24 members of FIFA's voting committee. England won the only World Cup it has ever hosted in 1966 and another chance at hosting the finals would give the ‘football’s coming home’ movement even more confidence.

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From RTÉ Archives, former Tour de France winner Stephen Roche talks to Roy Willoughby on Sunday Sport about the first stage of the 1998 Tour de France which began in Ireland.

Indeed, Ireland has successfully hosted major international sporting events such as the Special Olympics in 2003, the Ryder Cup in 2006, European club rugby and football finals, the Tour de France in 1998 and the Women's Rugby World Cup in 2017. But no amount of hosting these events can prepare us for the chaotic four-week carnival that is the World Cup. There is growing public ambivalence to mega events because of debacles like with Brazil’s 2014 and South Africa’s 2010 World Cups, when the host countries built several stadiums that soon proved unnecessary.

Rio’s legacy from the 2016 Olympic Games is a radical but negative transformation of the city, displacing over 20,000 people from their homes and exacerbating socioeconomic divides rather than addressing them. Official costs of the postponed and still uncertain Tokyo Olympics are on course to become one of the most expensive Summer Games in history, with a final budget of €12.9 billion 

But not to worry, sure wouldn’t hosting the World Cup in Ireland be great craic altogether? Everyone knows that the best bit of attending a party rather than hosting it is not having to worry about the preparations beforehand or the massive clean-up job afterwards.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ