Irish FA chiefs face being slapped down and shown an immediate red card by European football’s governing body over their optimistic plans to stage the 2025 Europa Conference League Final at Windsor Park.
High on the success and excitement of hosting a superb SuperCup Final between Chelsea and Villarreal last August, the Irish FA have confirmed to Sunday Life Sport they will be bidding for another major UEFA decider — the 2025 Europa Conference League showpiece.
But there is a major snag — Windsor Park, with a capacity of 18,500, does not and is unlikely to meet the stadia criteria set down by UEFA for the Final of their new club competition.
A UEFA spokesperson told Sunday Life Sport: “The UEFA Europa Conference League Bid Requirements 2023 state that a state of the art stadium with a seating capacity of a minimum of between 25,000 to 40,000 seats is needed.”
The Irish FA, it is understood, are hoping UEFA will show leniency towards the Windsor Park bid, especially after the SuperCup being held at the famous South Belfast venue last summer was such a triumph.
But with six other bids anticipated to be in the running for the 2025 Europa Conference League decider, the Irish FA’s nomination is expected to be dismissed before it enters the formal proceedings.
An Irish FA source admitted to Sunday Life Sport: “The bid is being put forward in hope rather than expectation. We want to show UEFA that we are really interested in hosting one of their major Finals again.”
In the build-up to the SuperCup Final and with the feel-good factor abound, Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson stated the Association would try and bid for the Women’s Champions League Final, possibly in 2025, but of course Windsor Park doesn’t meet the threshold.
UEFA confirmed to Sunday Life Sport that the minimum capacity for a Women’s Champions League Final is currently 25,000 and that the next three deciders will be held at the 41,507 Juventus Stadium, the 35,000 PSV Stadium in Eindhoven and the 52,389 San Mamés Stadium, which is in Bilbao.
UEFA insist the venue for 2025 hasn’t been chosen but it’s highly unlikely 18,500 Windsor Park will be considered.
“The Irish FA have known for a long time the only major European Final they could go for and stage was the SuperCup Final due to the fact they accept stadiums under 20,000 capacity for that game,” continued our source.
“It would be marvellous to have the Conference League Final in Belfast, it would create so much interest and despite being the third tier of UEFA’s club competitions there would still be decent clubs in the decider. But if UEFA allow the Irish FA’s bid to go through, ignoring their own criteria for the event, it would open up a minefield.”
The Irish FA know all about a failure to meet criteria and dismissing an application.
Earlier this year, the Irish FA appointed former Motherwell youth coach Diarmuid O’Carroll as their new Under-17/19 manager before it was brought to their attention that he did not hold the required ‘A’ Licence.
Therefore, despite being announced, he subsequently, having been contacted by the Irish FA, withdrew his application for the post less than 24 hours later.