By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber
NYON, Switzerland(Reuters) -The United Kingdom and Ireland will host the 2028 European Championship, while Italy and Turkey will stage the 2032 edition of the tournament, UEFA announced on Tuesday.
By accepting a joint Italy-Turkey bid for Euro 2032 last week, and with Turkey withdrawing from the race for Euro 2028, the hosts for both tournaments were already all but assured.
Turkey’s withdrawal from the 2028 race left England, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Scotland and Wales as the sole joint bidders for that tournament.
Both sets of bids, however, still needed final approval from UEFA’s executive committee that convened on Tuesday.
“Nothing is ever a formality even right until the last minute,” said Debbie Hewitt, chair of the English Football Association (FA). “We took nothing for granted.”
Hewitt said efforts to organise the tournament had united the five soccer associations.
“There’s so many things that you might think might divide, but actually it has really unified,” she said. “I think that will be something that we all feel very proud of.”
Euro 2028 will be the largest major sporting event the UK and Ireland have jointly staged. It will be held in 10 stadia, including Wembley in London, the National Stadium of Wales in Cardiff, Hampden Park in Glasgow and Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.
Hewitt said it was still unclear how the matches would be divided among the five hosts. Wembley, with a capacity of 90,000, could be expected to host the final and possibly the semi-finals. The venue hosted the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020, which saw Italy beat England on penalties.
Because of the five different hosts, UEFA will reserve two “safety net” berths for host teams that do not qualify on merit.
If more than two host nations fail to qualify, only the two with the best record will get a place. This would mean that some of the host nations will not feature in the tournament.
Former Welsh international Gareth Bale, who retired in January, said the tournament would boost soccer in Wales.
“I think it’s important especially for Wales to keep on the map, to keep pushing forward, to keep trying and better ourselves,” he said.
The English FA said some three million tickets would be available for the tournament, more than at any previous European Championship. Matches will be held in stadia with an average capacity of 58,000, it added.
England also hosted the Euros in 1996.
For the 2032 tournament, Italy and Turkey presented 20 stadiums in their bid but that list will be narrowed down to five per country by October 2026, UEFA said.
Italy, the reigning European champions but who failed to qualify for the last two World Cups, will be hosting Euro matches for the fourth time. They staged the tournaments in 1968 and 1980, and hosted games during Euro 2020 in Rome.
Turkey — who have not played at the World Cup since 2002 and have gone out at the group stage in the last two Euros though they reached the semi-finals in 2008 — will be hosting Euro matches for the first time.
European qualifiers are currently underway for Euro 2024, which Germany will host across 10 stadiums.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Cécile Mantovani; Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar)