London – British Prime Minister Theresa May signalled her “full support” on Friday for a potential joint bid by the United Kingdom and Ireland to host the 2030 Soccer World Cup.
May’s comments serve up a formidable challenge to a Latin American plan that Argentina agreed with Paraguay and Uruguay in April.
England’s fans have been riding a wave of patriotic jubilation since their young team beat the odds to reach the semi-finals of the June-July tournament played in Russia.
But the biggest event in the world’s most popular sport is being expanded from 32 to 48 teams starting with the next edition in Qatar in 2022.
The change means that even countries with ample infrastructure may struggle to cope with the weight of pulling off the massively followed competition on their own.
The 2026 tournament was awarded to a “United” bid the United States presented with Mexico and Canada.
The rights for the 2030 World Cup are still up for grabs – and the five Football Associations within the United Kingdom and Ireland have been plotting a joint bid of their own.
May said her support for 2030 stemmed in part from the adulation England received for their performance in Russia.
“Following the excitement of this summer’s World Cup, the English FA are working together with the FAs of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland to explore whether there could be a joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup,” May said.
“The decision on whether to bid is, of course, for the Football Associations to make. But if they decide to go forward, they can count on this government’s full support.”
England’s Russia campaign ended with a 2-1 extra-time loss to Croatia in a game they led until the closing minutes of normal time.
Coach Gareth Southgate thinks the team still have room to grow and should be setting themselves the target of bringing the World Cup trophy home from Qatar.
How any of the teams perform in 2030 is a matter of pure conjecture because nations will have a new generation of stars by that point.
Yet what is certain is that the cost of staging a World Cup will be substantial – and possibly more than any one country can reasonably afford.
Russia is believed to have spent a record $ 13.5 billion.
Much of that money went into giving some of the 11 host cities their biggest makeovers since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.
A joint UK-Ireland bid would not have to invest as much in basic infrastructure such stadiums or airports and hotels.
Yet World Cup costs had been rising even before the 48-team expansion and the governing body FIFA is keen to keep the games economically viable for the hosts.