The UK has identified almost 100 international sporting events it has aspirations to host over the next decade which would bring a combined benefit to the economy of almost £7billion.
Elite sports funding body UK Sport, with strong support from the Government, has earmarked 97 events across 44 sports, including 46 world championships, between now and 2031.
Some of those events have already been secured, while others like the 2030 men’s football World Cup, an English bid for the 2025 women’s rugby World Cup and the 2031 Ryder Cup are at the feasibility study stage.
While UK Sport could not put a figure on how many of those events it would actually secure, it said the UK’s bid success ratio stood at around 80 per cent over the last four years, which would equate to 78 of those 97 events being secured if bids ultimately went in for all of them.
The biggest prize of all would arguably be the men’s centenary football World Cup in 2030, which is considered second only to the Olympic Games as the world’s most prestigious and watched sports event.
FIFA is set to outline the bidding process by the second quarter of next year, with a decision due to be taken on the hosts at its 2024 Congress.
The UK and Ireland are exploring the feasibility of a joint bid for those finals, but could find themselves up against Spain and Portugal to be Uefa’s preferred bidder. There is then expected to be a South American bid, which at the very least would command sentimental support given Uruguay hosted the inaugural finals in 1930.
UK Sport chief operating officer Simon Morton said football politics were part of the discussions around feasibility, but believes there are many differences with this bid compared to the failed England-only attempt for the 2018 finals.
“Fifa have made some significant and important changes to the bid process, it has become significantly more transparent,” he said.
“Some said that the (2018) bid was perhaps a bit too insular - well we’re talking about a five-nation bid, so the tone is completely different.
“This is pioneering, this is unprecedented in terms of what we’re talking about. So I think those things give us confidence that after 11 years since the last bid, things have the potential to be different this time around.”
Fifa president Gianni Infantino says the bidding process for 2030 will be “bullet-proof”. As with the 2026 finals, which were awarded to Canada, Mexico and the United States, it will be the full Fifa Congress which votes.
Morton believes UK Sport’s investment across a range of sports into international relations means the UK will be well placed to understand and adapt to the different “rules of the game” that apply to hosting a football or rugby World Cup compared to an event under International Olympic Committee control for example.
The 2031 Ryder Cup is the next one which could come to the UK, with the feasibility study considering courses in England. The next ones on European soil are in Rome in 2023 and County Limerick in 2027.
Morton added: “These events aren’t just part of our strategy, they’re also aligned to the Government’s strategy and we have been really encouraged by the Government’s manifesto commitment to build on the UK’s fantastic track record of hosting the biggest international sporting events.
“These events will play an important part not just in our economic recovery from the pandemic, but in our social recovery.”
Morton said an event partners day had just concluded which involved “51 sports meeting 45 cities and venues across the UK discussing where the events on this list might be held”.
The list also includes a feasibility study into hosting the Grand Depart of a future Tour de France, while other so-called ‘mega events’ classed as opportunities include the World Athletics and Para-Athletics Championships, the men’s and women’s cricket World Cups, the men’s cricket world T20, the multi-sport European Championships and tennis’ Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup finals.