Gareth Bale will boost Britain and Ireland’s bid to host Euro 2028 by joining the Welsh delegation in Geneva next month.
Bale, the Welsh men’s team’s most capped player and record goalscorer, retired from football in January after an illustrious career that saw him win five Champions League titles and three FIFA Club World Cups with Real Madrid.
The 34-year-old has now backed Wales to become co-hosts of Euro 2028 alongside England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.
Turkey is also in the running to host the tournament. The final decision will be made on October 10th in Geneva, when Bale will be present.
Noel Mooney, chief executive of the Football Association of Wales, said: “We hope for a successful bid and Gareth is an integral part of the FAW and what we do.” He was identified as one of the faces of the bid presentation.
“Gareth is famous worldwide. You can get into a taxi in Sydney or Peru and when you mention you’re from Wales they say “Gareth Bale”. It’s an instant reaction.
“When I go home to the west of Ireland the first thing people ask me is, ‘How is Gareth Bale?’
“Gareth is so good for us. We went to him and asked him if he would get involved in the Euro 28 bid and he just said: “What can I do for Wales?”
“It came straight away – ‘How can I help you get the offer over the finish line?'”
Ten stadiums across the five nations would host games if the Euro 2028 bid is successful – Wembley, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Etihad Stadium, Everton’s new Bramley-Moore Dock Stadium, Villa Park and St James’ Park are the venues in England.
A revamped Casement Park in Belfast, the Dublin Arena in the Republic, Hampden Park in Scotland and the Principality Stadium in Wales – the 74,500-seat home of Welsh rugby – would also host games.
Due to UEFA sponsorship rules, the Principality Stadium would be known as the Cardiff National Stadium during the tournament.
Wales hope to play up to six games if their bid is successful. Mooney said last October that Cardiff could host the opening game of the tournament.
Mooney said: “Six games for Wales have already been mentioned, but ultimately it is up to UEFA to decide on the division of games, qualification of the five host nations and the like.”
“We are lucky to have a fantastic stadium in a great city. Cardiff hosted a very successful Champions League final in 2017 and UEFA were very happy with it.
“But we believe we can get more out of hosting a series of games than a single game.
“Tens of thousands of Spanish and Italian fans were in Cardiff for the Real Madrid v Juventus game and everyone had a great time. But the next day they were gone.
“What the 2016 European Championship did for France as a brand and what it will do for Germany in 2024 was fantastic.
“The European Championship affected by the corona crisis was not the same and the World Cup in Qatar was a different experience.”
Mooney is confident that work to upgrade the Principality Stadium to UEFA standards will be completed if the UK and Ireland bid proves successful.
He said: “Cardiff Council and the Welsh Government support the offer and are happy with the projected return on investment.
“Millions of pounds need to be spent on the Principality Stadium to bring it up to standard. It needs new floodlights and a scoreboard.
“There are also problems with the hospitality numbers and the TV area. But these are all things that will be solved.”