Ireland could form an alliance with the UK, Netherlands, and Denmark to co-host next year’s deferred European Championship finals.
It is understood that Covid-19 travel restrictions have forced Uefa to concede defeat in the original plan of spreading the 24-nation finals across 12 countries.
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin was never overly keen on the concept, devised by his deposed predecessor Michel Platini. With any roll-out of a potential Covid-19 vaccine not expected until next year, the European governing body will look to establish a roadmap to their showpiece tournament at the next executive committee meeting on December 3.
Coronavirus already prompted Uefa to postpone the finals by 12 months until next June and nailing down the venue format constitutes the next priority.
Speculation in France on Monday linked Russia with staging the entire 51-game tournament on a standalone basis but that’s believed to be an unlikely prospect. Russia hosted the World Cup in 2018.
More probable is England, which was due to stage the semi-finals and final, pitching for more fixtures or collaborating with nearby nations to offer hosting the month-long extravaganza in the “north-west” region of Europe.
The UK federations of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland — along with Netherlands, Denmark, and Ireland — are understood to be exploring the project.
Relations between the FAI and England’s FA have improved since John Delaney’s exit. Former English FA commercial director Jonathan Hill, who officially started as new FAI chief executive on Monday, was involved in brokering the friendly match between the sides on Thursday week at Wembley Stadium.
Working in the bid’s favour is the array of top stadia, including the Aviva Stadium, along with short flight time between the nations.
Even Uefa’s strict protocols for the September and October international windows, including mandatory charter flights inside a “bubble”, couldn’t prevent some cases arising within squads. Minimising air travel, a desire of the powerful club lobby, is foremost in Uefa’s list of criteria.
Blitzing the latter stages of their club competitions, both male and female, into one country during the summer was deemed a success but applying that principle to a 51-match tournament is unviable.
Given the pace of the second surge of Covid-19 cases across Europe, the prospects of spectators attending internationals at next summer’s major tournament is fading fast.
Over €100m of exchequer revenue was estimated if fans were descending on Dublin for the four scheduled games next summer.
However, even without that magnitude of income, or Ireland’s participation in the tournament, the FAI would gladly play their part, at least as a dry run to vie for co-hosting the 2030 World Cup alongside the UK bloc.