UK and Ireland’s Euro 2028 calculated stadium gamble prioritises style over substance
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A bid for an international footballing tournament in which a number of the proposed host stadiums haven’t even been built yet; sound familiar? One day maybe we as a species might recognise that our hubris has a tendency to drop us into scenarios that our capabilities can’t wholly get us out of, but today will not be that day. Probably won’t be tomorrow either.
The United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland have launched a joint bid to lay on Euro 2028. For a number of the involved parties, this makes quite a lot of sense. The last time that anywhere on these fractured isles helped with a major international competition, England nearly went all the way in a Covid-delayed Euro 2020. Likewise, in that very same tournament, Scotland recorded one of their crowning moments as a sporting nation; a stunning 0-0 win at Wembley. I jest, of course. Please don’t come after me.
Anyways, as part of their ongoing charm offensive, the relevant suits have named their shortlist of the 10 grounds that they would look to utilise in five years’ time, and it makes for interesting reading. Glasgow’s Hampden Park, the Principality Stadium in Cardiff are there, as are English counterparts St James’ Park, the Etihad Stadium, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Villa Park, and Wembley. Over in the Republic of Ireland, Dublin’s Aviva Stadium has also made the final batch. The final two stadiums, for those who have realised that we have mentioned eight names in this paragraph and not 10, don’t exist just yet.
Everton’s new home at Bramley-Moore Dock and Belfast’s Casement Park round out the shortlist in a decision that is, diplomatically-speaking, intriguing. The Toffees’ shiny new ground is expected to be completed by next year. Fair enough, no real problems there then - provided, of course, Everton don’t get relegated, get desperate, and sell it off to become Merseyside’s biggest indoor trampoline park or something in the meantime.
Over in Belfast, however, work hasn’t even started. Now, evidently, those in the know believe wholeheartedly that Casement Park will be finished in time. In truth, it probably will be. But, boy, they ain’t giving themselves a whole lot of wiggle room are they? It can take years, not just to erect a stadium, but to iron out all of the associated kinks that come with a new venue too.
Now, crunches in time and planning are common in the run up to international sporting events. At their worst, they can lead to the widespread, and potentially fatal, exploitation of workers, as we saw in Qatar last year. There isn’t a world in that is an acceptable price to pay for football. You would imagine that any possible issues with Casement Park, or indeed Bramley-Moore Dock, would be probably be closer to ‘the Guinness taps on the concourse aren’t pouring correctly’, rather than ‘severe human rights abuses’, but the point remains that it is a gamble to launch any such venture on the promise of an architect’s sketches. A calculated gamble, yes, but a gamble nonetheless.
It is also, in the case of Bramley-Moore Dock, an engrossing train of thought to willingly put forward an artist’s impression when a ground as revered, historic, and globally recognisable as Anfield lies literally two miles away. You could perhaps make a similar argument in the case of Old Trafford - the second biggest stadium in England - being overlooked for the Etihad. In both cases, you suspect modernity and profit for a select few faceless marionettists are factors, but why not make use of these iconic monuments to English football when you have the chance? Too many tournaments are padded out with soulless, identi-kit bowls of chrome and glass. Why not flaunt the unique and the venerated?
That’s nothing against the Etihad, by the way, and I’m sure Bramley-Moore Dock, or whatever it ends up being called, will be just lovely, and oh so very sleek. But dappled in the warm light of a mid-summer sun, stands packed in shades of technicolour anticipation, you can’t tell me that Old Trafford or Anfield wouldn’t evoke just a little more wonder. But hey, what do I know? The tournament will probably get awarded to Turkey anyways.