England have requested to go through qualification for Euro 2028, with their joint hosting as part of a UK and Ireland bid set to be rubber-stamped by UEFA on Tuesday.
The five-nation bid will make its presentation to UEFA’s executive committee on Tuesday morning but is unopposed to host the tournament in five years’ time, with Turkey having withdrawn its candidacy last week to focus on a joint bid for the 2032 finals with Italy.
UEFA has reserved two ‘safety net’ host-nation berths should any of the five UK and Ireland bidders not qualify on merit, but the Football Association is understood to have already told UEFA that England are keen to go through qualification.
— The FA (@FA) October 4, 2023
The FA is keen to keep the team competitive in the run-up to the finals, with Germany having struggled in friendly action in the build-up to Euro 2024. There are also concerns over the level of opposition they would be able to secure if they were limited to friendlies.
If more than two of the five hosts do not make it, only the two with the best record will secure host places. So there are no guarantees all five will be involved in the finals.
Ten stadia were included in the UK-Ireland’s bid submission in April. Six of the venues are in England, with one each from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The six in England are Wembley, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the Etihad Stadium, St James’ Park, Villa Park and Everton’s new home at Bramley-Moore Dock.
A redeveloped Casement Park in Belfast, the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Hampden Park in Glasgow and the Principality Stadium in Cardiff are the other stadia included in the submission.
Even with Turkey in the running, the five-nation bid was the overwhelming favourite to be selected.
Senior UEFA sources have indicated the importance of another Euro in a major football market, following on from next year’s tournament in Germany, as European football’s governing body seeks to further replenish its reserves after the financial shock of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The five nations released a joint statement last week following Turkey’s withdrawal, stating they had a “compelling” and “ground-breaking” proposal for UEFA to consider, which would deliver “lasting legacies” across the whole of Ireland and the UK.
Bid leaders estimate that the 2028 tournament is projected to generate around three billion euros (£2.6 billion) of economic benefit for the five host nations.
There are nevertheless some major issues that need to be addressed if the UK-Ireland bid is accepted by the ExCo.
For a start, the Casement Park site is derelict and plans by the Gaelic Athletic Association to redevelop it with a 34,000-capacity venue have been mired in controversy and hit by delays.
The Casement project has been delayed by a series of legal challenges and is further complicated by the lack of a functioning Executive at Stormont.
The redevelopment has also been hit by rising costs, with an original projected price tag from almost a decade ago of £77.5million now believed to have spiralled well above £100m.
The GAA is part-funding the project but has yet to reach an agreement with Stormont on how to cover a multi-million-pound shortfall.
Wembley would be expected to host the final in 2028, if not both semi-finals as well. It will be another major test for the 90,000-capacity venue after the chaos surrounding its hosting of the Euro 2020 final.
Football Association chair Debbie Hewitt said in June: “One of the things I am absolutely convinced UEFA’s Exco will ask us is, ‘how can you assure us nobody will storm the turnstiles?’
“We have to convince every one of those Exco members we have not only thought about it, but that we have planned for it – that we know what we would do in what order and who is accountable.”