CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE REPORTING —- When Gareth Bale made his world record £86m move to Real Madrid in August, Wales became the focus of more attention from the footballing world.
But the country’s ambitions go much further than just producing the latest Galactico.
Speaking at the Event Wales conference at Cardiff City stadium, Jonathan Ford of the Football Association of Wales expanded on his body’s high sights.
Last year, UEFA decided that the 2020 European Championship finals would be held in multiple cities all over Europe to mark the 60th anniversary of the tournament – and also in response to the fact that only Turkey had put forward a serious bid to host the tournament.
Ford was not shy in revealing his desire for the Millennium Stadium to be a part of the pan-European tournament, either the group stage and quarter-finals or the final and semi-finals.
He said: “Hopefully yes we may be seriously considered and maybe yes we might be awarded Euro 2020. If not that then maybe a Champions League final might also come back on to the agenda as well.”
Atttracting the attention of UEFA was certainly a strong pledge within the institution and with new territories being in-vogue at the moment, Ford did not want to be left behind.
“UEFA has to pass these things around a bit, you’ve got France in 2016, you’ve got Russia in 2018 – there’s a lot of these countries that have already hosted these events.
“Wales has hosted an awful lot of other events . . . but what we need is we need UEFA to bring some of their events here and that’s one of the campaign messages that I’ve always had is to campaign my way through to UEFA and to get them to make sure that we get some of the big events whether that’s the Champions League final or the European Championships here to Wales.”
Reports had surfaced of a possible co-hosting bid by Wales, Ireland and Scotland. But Ford explained that this was not a fully-realised project, adding that it was only an interest and that before the format change they were “miles off” the concept.
But with two teams in the English Premier League, the most watched domestic league in the world, and the recent accolade of being one of the fastest growing businesses in Wales, the FAW has the world in its sights too.
In the welcome to the conference Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, mentioned the possibility of sharing a bid to host a World Cup saying: “Why not? Let’s be ambitious about this.” The sentiment was echoed by Ford, who said: “World Cup bid? It’s an ambition, it’s a vision absolutely and I think I absolutely support the long-term vision in football there. We’d have to do that with other partners clearly, we certainly couldn’t do that alone.
“Scotland and Ireland – whichever, or England or a combination of them all. But actually we’ve got a few other things on our plate first and we want to make sure that Euro 2020 bid should we go forward having agreed that with our partners which we must do, is hopefully winning the bid.”
A first step up for Wales with UEFA will be its hosting in Cardiff next August 12 of the European Supercup between the winners of the Champions League and Europa League.
Where Wales possesses have considerable influence is in football’s law-making body, the International Football Association Board. IFAB is made up of the four home associations with four votes all controlled by FIFA, representing the rest of the world.
IFAB came in for some criticism under the FIFA reform process and has expanded its communications system. But Ford said: “I would defend [the make-up of IFAB] vigorously. We are there as the guardians of the laws of the game and we do that job and we take that very seriously.
“It’s a privileged role to have . . . We’re one of the founding four members together with Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. I’m delighted that Wales has a responsibility which I take very seriously.”
Now Ford wants the rest of the world to take Wales seriously.