Northern Ireland and Republic in joint bid to host U21 football tournament

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A joint bid by Northern Ireland and the Republic’s football associations to host a major football tournament in Europe could have “huge economic benefits” for both countries, it has been claimed.

The Irish Football Association (IFA) and the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) revealed they are to make a bid to host the Uefa Under-21 Championship in 2023.

It is the second biggest football tournament in Europe after the Uefa Euros.

The formal bid will be put together next year, with the decision expected to be made in 2020.

The joint bid, which is the first between both associations, will face competition from potentially 53 other nations.

If successful, the tournament could inject £20 million into the local economies and 100,000 overnight stays.

Potential venues to host games include the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Windsor Park in Belfast, Tallaght Stadium and Ballymena Showgrounds.

Speaking at Windsor Park, IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson said that if the bid is successful, it will have “huge positive economic benefits”.

He added that both associations will continue to work together against the “confusing backdrop of Brexit”.

“While no-one can be sure how the future arrangements will work after March, we can be certain that there will be the FAI and IFA, both separately responsible for promoting the games in our countries,” he said.

Patrick Nelson during the announcement at Windsor Park
Patrick Nelson during the announcement at Windsor Park (Brian Lawless/PA)

IFA president David Martin described the bid as a “historic moment”.

“The under-21 championship is considered the second biggest football tournament in terms of prestige and size that the national associations of Europe can participate in,” he said.

“Therefore what a prize for the footballing public if both our countries were successful in achieving that bid and bringing it to fruition.

“I am certainly excited that we are working together to bring this top football event to our countries, it will be great for the players, for the management, for two national associations and for the football public.”

Donal Conway, president of the FAI, said the bid highlights some of the work both organisations have been involved in.

“The thrust of this is that it’s co-operation, it’s a joint bid by both associations,” he added.

“I look forward to a successful outcome to this bidding process.

“What a way to inspire the young boys and young girls in both of our countries – coming to games in Belfast, Cork, Ballymena, Limerick and Dublin.

“I look forward to what today represents, our continuing good relationships with our neighbours in Northern Ireland.”

FAI chief executive John Delaney said: “It’s a historic announcement and it illustrates the continued greater co-operation between both associations.

“If we are successful in the bid, the final will be here in the national stadium in Belfast.”

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