In what is shaping up to be a historic moment for European football, the prestigious stage of Euro 2028 has found its home. The joint bid from the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, confirmed by Uefa, is set to turn a new page in footballing history.
Football Returns to Familiar Shores
With the ceremonial atmosphere filled with football elites, Gareth Bale, the former captain of Wales, remarked during the presentation in Nyon, “For me as a Welshman, I would love for Cardiff to host the opening match. We have the stadium and infrastructure for it. We’ve held big tournaments in the past so we have the experience.” His words echo the sentiment of countless fans across these nations, eagerly waiting for another major tournament since England’s hosting of Euro 2020 and Scotland’s shared hosting.
BBC Sport reports that the path to this monumental decision wasn’t devoid of drama. Following Turkey’s decision to withdraw in favour of a joint bid with Italy for Euro 2032, the spotlight turned to the UK and Ireland. A shift from their initial ambition of hosting the 2030 World Cup, the focus became clearer: Euro 2028 was the prize.
The Venues Set to Captivate Europe
One can’t discuss the upcoming European Championship without deliberating on the venues, and what’s in store sounds nothing short of spectacular. With Cardiff’s Principality Stadium tipped to host the opening and London’s iconic Wembley to stage the final, the expectations are already sky-high.
Etihad Stadium – Manchester City’s ground with a planned capacity of almost 62,000 by 2025.
Everton Stadium – The Toffees’ new home at Bramley-Moore Dock with a projected capacity of 52,888. Completion expected next year.
St James’ Park – Newcastle’s stadium which hosted matches at Euro 96. Development plans could increase its capacity by 2028.
Villa Park – Undergoing a £100m redevelopment with the new capacity expected to exceed 50,000.
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – The largest club stadium in London, holding over 62,000. It opened in 2019 and boasts a retractable pitch.
Wembley Stadium – England’s iconic stadium likely to host the Euro 2028 final. It’s celebrating its centenary this year.
Casement Park – Construction in Belfast set to begin next year. The planned capacity is 34,500.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Aviva Stadium – Located in Dublin and holding over 51,000 spectators. Hosts both football and rugby matches.
Hampden Park – Scotland’s national stadium which hosted matches at Euro 2020. Current capacity is just over 50,000, but plans might increase it to 65,000.
Principality Stadium – Located in Cardiff and previously hosted the 2017 Champions League final. It has a capacity of 74,500.
A Unique Challenge: The Qualification Quandary
The joy of hosting does come with its set of challenges, particularly surrounding qualification. With Uefa guidelines stating, “In case of more than two joint-host associations, the automatic qualification of all the host teams cannot be guaranteed”, the journey to Euro 2028 could be tense for the home nations. While many hope that all five nations secure their spots, it’s clear that a unique approach might be needed. Bale weighed in, saying, “It’s important all teams try and qualify and do the best they can and hopefully they all do it automatically anyway.”
The Legacy Continues
From hosting the World Cup in 1966 and Euro ’96, the UK’s rich footballing heritage is undeniable. Scotland joined in the legacy by co-hosting Euro 2020. This new chapter with Euro 2028 is only set to enhance the narrative, even as countries like Italy and Turkey set their sights on future tournaments.
Yet, amidst the anticipation, there’s a focus on delivering not just a successful tournament, but one that leaves a lasting impact. Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf highlighted the potential opportunities, noting that hosting “will provide a range of opportunities…through a strong legacy programme.”
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar beautifully encapsulated the sentiment, “It will be the biggest event ever hosted by our two islands working together.”
As the drums of Euro 2028 start to beat louder, the UK and Ireland are all set to take fans on another unforgettable footballing journey.