Hopes are high for a repeat of the heroics that lifted the spirits of the nation in 1988, 1990, 1994 and 2002. Those hopes have a material benefit for business as well with Retail Excellence Ireland forecasting that the football adventure will give rise to a €250 million lift in consumer spending.
Everything from electrical goods to betting, sporting gear to alcohol and party food will get a boost and retailers ought to be rubbing their hands with glee.
Regardless though of 2012, the real light in the distance for Irish business large and small must be in the expression of interest which the FAI has made to host the European Championship finals in 2020 as part of a Celtic bid including Scotland and Wales.
The FAI was at pains to stress after confirming the expression of interest that the notification was merely to access the more detailed information that would be required from UEFA before a formal bid was made in around 18 months time.
Nevertheless this is a serious proposition with a strong chance of success and a potential massive benefit to all Irish business.
In 2016 when the tournament is hosted in France, the number of teams participating in the finals will be expanded to 24 from the current 16. The requirements for that tournament are likely to be repeated for the next one.
They include the need for a host or hosts to provide at least two stadia with capacities in excess of 50,000, four with a capacity of greater than 40,000 and a similar number of more than 30,000.
A joint bid from Scotland, Ireland and Wales would comfortably cover the top end even if Croke Park was unavailable at what would be the busiest time of a GAA Championship season. The Aviva Stadium might be Ireland’s only contribution with its capacity of 50,000. Neither Thomond Park at 26,500 or the RDS Arena at 18,000 would be big enough to be considered in their present state.
The only other confirmed formal bid was from Turkey while sources also suggested that Georgia and possibly one more country might have been in contact with UEFA.
Turkey would be a difficult choice given the match fixing scandal that resulted in the national Champions Fenerbahce being expelled from the 2012 UEFA Champions’ League. It is also bidding to host the 2020 Olympics and sources within UEFA seem to be lukewarm about the organisation in place within football at present.
Georgia would have difficulty satisfying the criteria. At present the Boris Paichadze Stadium, home to Dinamo Tbilisi would be the only ground with a capacity greater than 30,000.
Nothing will be done on a potential bid until after next month’s Euro 2012 Finals but the clock would then be ticking to succeed France which will host the next renewal.
France won through against opposition from Turkey and Italy when the 2016 tournament was awarded two years ago. There was some controversy at the time with Michel Platini accused of bias but the French bid was the strongest. They have five stadia with a capacity of more than 50,000, headed by the 80,000+ Stade de France. An additional four have capacity greater than 40,000 and the smallest currently being considered as a venue is the Grand Stade Nice which holds over 35,000.
When Scotland and Ireland failed in a bid to host the 2008 Championships one of the major concerns was about the infrastructure in Glasgow which might have been home to three of the stadia. It is unlikely that all three of Celtic Park, Hampden Park and Ibrox would be included in this bid but neither would they have to be with the presence of significant, primarily rugby stadia in Cardiff and Edinburgh.
The Irish government and sporting authorities are already giving consideration to a bid to host the Rugby World Cup Finals in 2022.
This bid may now take precedence or it may be seen as a dry run. Bidding is an expensive process but the shared cost will lessen the blow and the economic benefit from winning with most of the infrastructure already in place would be very significant.
Consider that Gdansk as one of Ireland’s venues in Poland have taken out premium advertising in Irish media to extol the virtues of the city and you begin to see the positive impact that hosting a major event can have.
The UK is benefitting for an 80% lift in positive sentiment across the BRIC economies in advance of the London 2012 games and with soccer being the one truly international sport, the same benefit is likely to accrue to the host of any major tournament, even if it is on a co-hosted basis as suggested.
We will have time to absorb the value and the lessons for Poland before signing our name to a formal bid but this is not just wishful thinking.
The thought of Shane Long leading the Irish Team to victory in a European Championship semi final at least on home soil may be closer than we think.