The FAI have announced that the Republic of Ireland is to host the UEFA European Under 17 Championship Finals in 2019.
The 16-nation tournament marks a huge stepping stone for the FAI’s co-hosting of UEFA EURO 2020, as well as reinforcing Ireland’s growing reputation of running major international football tournaments.
FAI President Tony Fitzgerald praised the announcement by saying: “This achievement, in gaining one of the most prestigious underage football tournaments, brings to an end, a remarkable year for Irish football. “The successes of our underage international teams, the performance of our men’s senior team at UEFA EURO 2016, the Dublin launch of UEFA EURO 2020 and being awarded this tournament are the highlights of a great year.”
FAI CEO John Delaney welcomed the news and thanked the key stakeholders who partnered the Association during its bidding process. “This is great news for Ireland and it is, once again, testament to the great work that has been done in partnership with all those who have pledged support with our bidding process,” said Delaney. “In particular, I would like to thank all of the Dublin regional council authorities, Dublin City Council, South Dublin County Council, Fingal County Council and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, who were tremendous supporters throughout this process. “This is a prestigious tournament and will bring the best European underage talent to these shores for what will be a memorable football occasion for all of Ireland.”
FAI Director of High Performance Ruud Dokter said the awarding of the 2019 tournament to Ireland marked the end of an “excellent year for underage football in this country”. “This announcement comes on the back of the successes of our Under 17s and Under 19s for both men and women, who have qualified for the Elite Rounds of their respective UEFA European Championship campaigns,” said Dokter. “This news from UEFA is extremely positive for Irish football. Hosting the UEFA European Under 17 Championship Finals in 2019 perfectly fits in with everything we are trying to do with the development of our players. "We have so much in place now with the progression of the National Leagues, from Under 15 through to Under 19 level, developing the elite pathway for young players in this country. There have been many examples of our young players progressing, such as Cork City excelling in the UEFA Youth League, and this tournament will mean Irish people will get to see the best young players in Europe. "It's a collective responsibility for everyone involved in Irish football to make the finals a success. It is also an opportunity to build our infrastructures and ensure our venues and training facilities are at the highest level possible also."
Earlier this year, the FAI revealed that one of the strategic objectives of the Association was to host an underage finals tournament, thus outlining a deep commitment for the ongoing development of underage football. That development has included the completion of the FAI National Training Centre, the ongoing work with the Emerging Talent Programmes, the strengthening of the Continental Tyres Women’s National League, and the launch of SSE Airtricity National Under 19, Under 17 and shortly, Under 15, Leagues. All of this activity, combined with the Player Development Plan, helps to enhance and strengthen underage international football in Ireland.
Hosting the UEFA European Under 17 Championship Finals in 2019 will promote the importance of underage football to the wider Irish public. The FAI has already started on plans to generate stronger bonds between supporters and underage football, which will, in turn, help to drive attendances and the public profile for years to come.
The FAI chose to bid for the hosting of the 2019 tournament on the basis of building on a proven track record of hosting tournaments and key events, including the UEFA Europa League Final in 2011, the UEFA Regions' Cup in 2015, and numerous First Phase and Elite Round mini-tournaments in recent years. Each of those events received special recognition from UEFA for the excellent manner in which they were planned and delivered. The awarding of the UEFA European Under 17 Championship Finals in 2019 is an important stepping stone to UEFA EURO 2020 and will feature 16 teams, with the Republic of Ireland automatically qualifying as hosts.