The United Kingdom and Ireland have been officially confirmed to co-host the esteemed Euro 2028, a sporting news hailed as “an opportunity of a lifetime” by Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill. This joint unchallenged bid comes as Turkey shifts its focus to partner with Italy for the Euro 2032.
This is a noteworthy first in football history, as neither Northern Ireland nor the Republic of Ireland have previously hosted any major football tournament. The Euro 2028 is expected to play out its exciting matches across ten different stadiums, including Belfast’s Casement Park, set for significant upgrades.
Plans are underway to morph Casement Park into a 34,500-capacity sporting arena, truncating it from the initially proposed 38,000-seat specification. However, this redevelopment venture has been no smooth sail, with a myriad of challenges, including protracted legal obstacles looming over the proposal for around a decade.
Despite the absence of start work on its construction, optimism grows for its readiness ahead of the year the tournament initiates. It is predicted that Casement Park could host up to five games.
According to Ms O’Neill, the hosting of this illustrious event promises to be a job creator, strong economic contributor, and wonderful showcase of the spirit of the Irish people and our beautiful island. She views it as a harmonizing platform that transcends political divides, uniting communities through the universal appeal of sport. The next agenda, as she affirms, is to progress to elevating Casement Park into a first-rate, technologically advanced sports facility for the Ulster Gaels and global audiences.
Acquiring public sentiment backstage of the official narratives, residents of west Belfast offered divided responses to the development. While some, like Ciaran McConville, could barely contain their excitement at the prospect of witnessing international games on their home ground, others like Nora Livery expressed reservations about the impact of excessive footfall on locals. Paul Bradley, however, views the news as a much-needed spur to expedite Casement Park’s construction.
Political representatives echoed sentiments of pride, economic boost, and the opportunity to leave behind a “fantastic sporting legacy.” Alliance Party’s David Honeyford called it “the biggest international sporting event ever to come to the region,” emphasizing the urgent need for Casement Park’s redevelopment. He asserted that both British and Irish governments have committed to finding the financial resources for the stadium’s reconstruction.
Meanwhile, Traditional Unionist Voice councillor Ron McDowell voiced his objection to using taxpayer’s money for the construction of Casement Park, arguing the project’s historical budget exceedance and local opposition.
However, Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar voiced his elation about the co-hosting, labeling it as the “biggest event ever hosted by our two islands working together.” He, along with others, anxiously await UEFA’s decision regarding the automatic qualification of host teams for the tournament.