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End pretence and drop bids

FAI need to abandon plans of hosting vanity projects

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Donal Conway’s press release last year about the FAI’s joint bids for high-profile tournaments has not aged well

Donal Conway’s press release last year about the FAI’s joint bids for high-profile tournaments has not aged well

Donal Conway’s press release last year about the FAI’s joint bids for high-profile tournaments has not aged well

On the very day in March that he left his post of FAI CEO for the ludicrous and badly planned move into the Executive Vice President role, John Delaney still had a couple of things to do for the association.

Yes, the mysterious (and still unexplained) Jonathan Hall report saw the FAI recommend that Delaney's responsibilities as Executive Vice President would include "all FAI tournament bidding projects".

"John is already leading our joint-bid with the Irish FA for the UEFA Under-21 Championships in 2023 and is working closely with the FAs in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales on the feasibility of a joint bid for the 2030 World Cup," FAI president Donal Conway said in an official FAI press release.

As he enters his final few days as president before stepping down on Saturday, Conway's words have not aged well.

The association has been very quiet on the bidding front in the last few months, mere survival and fire-fighting more urgent demands on the time of FAI board members.

But both bids remain active.

Some FAI insiders find that hard to believe, that an association with their level of debt (€70million) could still be, technically, in the frame to host not one but two major tournaments.

FAI staff, who have been told to cut costs completely, including basics like mileage, wonder how the association plans to fund the financial burden of such bids. And there would be costs.

And that's why the FAI could do their staff, and Irish football in general, a favour by formally withdrawing.

Ireland did host the U17 Euro finals last year, and it was a success. But hosting an U21 finals would take them onto another level, a level the FAI cannot afford given their levels of current debt and non-access to funding.

Launched in Belfast in November 2018, the FAI/IFA bid for the U21 finals was big on ambition but hazy on detail.

Six stadia were identified as suitable (Aviva Stadium, Dalymount Park, Tallaght Stadium, Turner's Cross, Windsor Park and the Ballymena Showgrounds), other venues no more than possible (Thomond Park, Kingspan Park and, albeit a long shot, some GAA grounds).

The new Dalymount, costing €34m, is unlikely to be ready for business by mid-2023, and Turner's Cross would need a massive revamp to meet UEFA guidelines.

There's a feeling within the current FAI that a joint U21 bid could be feasible in the future, but Dalymount would have to be match-ready, not just in planning. And the board have other priorities.

But Dublin co-hosting the 2030 World Cup finals along with England, Scotland and Wales was a complete flight of fancy, unrealistic from day one yet still encouraged, irresponsibly so, by the previous FAI board.

Hosting major finals was nothing more than a vanity project for the former CEO, and now that Delaney has severed his ties with UEFA, the FAI need to end the pretence and drop the bids.