Cardiff could host Euro 2028 matches.
Welsh authorities want to host the tournament's opening game at the Principality Stadium.

Cardiff’s bid to host Euro 2028 games edges a step closer

Welsh authorities want Cardiff to host the opening game as well as fixtures ‘at the business end’ of the major football tournament

CARDIFF has edged one step closer to becoming a host city for Euro 2028 as Welsh authorities push to host the tournament’s opening game at the Principality Stadium.

The Football Associations for England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have prepared a joint bid to host the tournament, set to involve 24 of Europe’s best national teams, in the summer of 2028.

In the latest boost for the bid, Cardiff Council scrutinised the proposal on Tuesday before the cabinet gave the green light on Thursday.

The UK and Ireland must submit their final bid by the deadline on April 12 with Uefa set to announce who will host Euro 2028 in September or October. The only other contender to host the event is Türkiye, which has made unsuccessful bids to host the last four editions of the tournament.

Cardiff Council Cabinet member for Culture and Events, Jennifer Burke, said: “The bid would showcase the city, building on its reputation as an international events destination, bringing longer-term benefits for tourism. Importantly, it would also expand opportunities for people in Cardiff to participate in sport and physical activity.”

The Welsh men’s national team’s major tournament success in recent years has handed them stays in France, Azerbaijan, Italy and Qatar, but many of those historic games took place under travel restrictions or in hard to reach places for the Red Wall fans. Hosting Euro 2028 would offer Wales the opportunity to play at a major tournament in front of their roaring home crowd.

Nobody needs reminding of the atmosphere generated at the two play-offs at the Cardiff City Stadium, which booked Wales’ place at the World Cup last year – but qualification for Wales won’t be a given as a host nation.

Uefa did not afford the luxury of automatic qualification to any of the 11 host nations of Euro 2020 – a special 60th-anniversary edition of the tournament, which Covid delayed until summer 2021.

Uefa is reluctant to provide more than two automatic places at Euro 2028 for the host nations, which may leave the five football associations involved in the UK and Ireland bid with some negotiating to do.

Councillor Peter Bradbury was in the Council’s cabinet when Cardiff won the bid for the 2017 Champions League final as well as an unsuccessful bid to be one of the Euro 2020 host cities.

“I think England should just let Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland qualify and if they’re that good they can qualify for it themselves,” he said.

Is Cardiff equipped to host a major tournament?

In 2017 the Champions League final brought at least 300,000 visitors and £45m into the city with hotels, restaurants, bars and tourist attractions all benefitting from the showpiece event.

Councillor Peter Wong, who chairs the council’s Culture and Economy Scrutiny Committee, says that Cardiff’s Champions League final was a “masterclass” in limiting city centre congestion and crowds.

“I was in town at the time and spoke to quite a number of fans. Some people were staying in Gloucester, some people were staying in London – and then travelling in for the day,” Coun Wong says.

But while the Champions League final constituted one match on one day, hosting matches at Euro 2028 would mean a “sustained presence” in the city over a number of weeks.

Coun Wong says that transport capabilities and long-term finances are chief among Cardiff Council’s concerns at this stage, though he was “reassured” by the scrutiny committee’s discussions on Tuesday, March 21.

Some questioned the city’s ability to host major events when an Ed Sheeran concert at the Principality Stadium last May caused a 15-mile standstill on the M4.

“I think the problem with the audience for the Ed Sheeran concert was that they’re not used to the large Cardiff events. Because we have games at the Six Nations every year with an entirely full Principality Stadium and there’s no issue.

“If you have sixty-thousand people in a given space then you can’t expect to be out in ten minutes.”

How would hosting benefit Welsh football?

The men’s side has netted the FAW around £28.7m from their last three major tournament appearances, including £7.6m ($9m) for their winless group stage exit from Qatar.

The FAW can use this money to improve infrastructure, facilities and employment opportunities at every level of the game.

Just last year, FAW chief executive Noel Mooney said he was “horrified” by the state of some facilities in Wales.

The FAW has committed to spending at least £20m in Welsh football facilities by 2026 as part of the six-year Our Wales strategy. It has spent £2.98m since 2021, including a £185,000 grant for Cardiff City’s new training centre in Llanrumney.

Coun Bradbury is also a proud supporter of Caerau Ely FC, who play in the Ardal South West league in the third tier of Welsh football.

“Success on the field generates a lot of interest in the community game. Our numbers are up at Caerau in terms of kids wanting to play football and it’s massively important, I think, for the community game, to have these sorts of events on our doorstep.

“If kids are playing football, or they’re playing sport, they’re not involved in crime or disorder and it’s an opportunity for employment and training. For me, that’s what it’s all about. Giving kids from our area a better opportunity.”

The FAW has also set out participation targets with ambitious goals for expanding the women’s game. They want to have 20,000 registered female players by 2026, up from just over 11,500 at the time of writing.

The Association also wants to nearly double the number of ‘game changers’ on their books – coaches, referees and volunteers – from just over 18,400 at the time of writing to 30,000 by 2026.

Hitting these targets would take the FAW’s total membership from the current size of around 130,000 now to 150,000.

A successful UK and Ireland bid is likely to inspire more people to get involved in the prelude to the tournament in 2028 – especially if FAW membership is a prerequisite to watching the national team at the Principality Stadium at Euro 2028.

The grassroots game will also hope they reap some of the rewards of a successful UK and Ireland bid.

“If we can get more people going to grassroots games and make them more financially viable, that would be very helpful,” said Coun Bradbury.

While there are question marks over how the blockbuster tournament could affect the grassroots game, councillors are confident about Cardiff’s ability to host blockbuster events.

“Don’t forget we used to host FA Cup finals while Wembley was being built,” Coun Wong reflected. “And that was always a positive experience, despite the fact that football fans can be a bit leery. It’s the ultimate test, isn’t it?”