UK Sport deputy says ‘right decision’ to ditch World Cup bid and host Euro 2028

By Sports Desk March 05, 2024

UK Sport’s deputy chief insists abandoning a potential joint UK and Ireland bid for the 2030 World Cup in favour of focusing on Euro 2028 was the “right decision”.

The 2030 tournament has now been awarded to Morocco, Portugal and Spain, with three South American nations staging the opening matches to mark the tournament’s centenary, while England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland will co-host the European Championships in four years’ time.

A Women’s World Cup was added to UK Sport’s latest list of 70 hosting  targets for events up to 2040, unveiled on Tuesday, and while the funding body executive acknowledged that there “is no stated aspiration” to secure the men’s equivalent within a specific time frame, he did not rule out the possibility of the competition landing on a future list.

UK Sport deputy CEO Simon Morton said: “I think when we think back to the bidding landscape over the last year or two in FIFA, one of the considerations that the FAs had to reflect on was whether the World Cup was winnable, and we had to think about every single event that we move forward with.

“I think it was the right decision, because we were quickly able to move those plans that had been built around the World Cup to secure, although it’s the Euros, a genuinely global tournament, and I think securing that for the UK and the unique partnership that sits alongside it, the four UK home countries and the Republic of Ireland, I think that was the big prize here.

“So I reflect on that and think it was a positive move.”

UK Sport invests both National Lottery and government funding to enable the bidding and staging of what it deems to be “strategically important” international sporting events hosted in the United Kingdom.

The most expensive and large-scale of their top event targets – like the Women’s World Cup – that exceed the organisation’s budget, also require additional financial support from the involved home nation governments. 

Many of the target events are initially classed in the commitment-free “opportunity” category,  which, for those deemed suitable to advance to the next phase, is followed by a feasibility study exploring factors such as venue selection, budget and chances of competitive success. 

Morton reiterated that a men’s World Cup is “not on our list at this (2024-2040) timeframe” and, when asked if the aspiration would be to host one in the 2040s, replied: “That’s not what we’re saying.

“There isn’t a stated aspiration to host the men’s World Cup in a specific year from our perspective, but as this programme evolves, as it moves into the next three or four years, perhaps that comes onto our list.

“I mean, that’s principally an issue for the football associations, who also need to decide on whether a bid goes ahead or not.”

The latest UK Sport update accompanies a new strategic framework for major events, which places a heavy emphasis on social impact and access.

The international hosting landscape has evolved and become more competitive, particularly in the case of Saudi Arabia, who look certain to host the 2034 World Cup after emerging as the sole bidder.

Morton added: “With the rise of Saudi money and what they are doing, it certainly feels as though the role of Saudi and its presence on the global competition circuit is becoming normalised, certainly over the last 12 to 24 months.

“This is why the UK needs to respond. This is part of the reason that we are setting out the plans that we are today.”

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