Football Association of Wales chief executive Noel Mooney says UEFA would welcome a British and Irish bid for the 2030 World Cup.
Mooney spent 10 years at UEFA and worked with all 55 European federations in his role as head of strategic development there before joining the FAW in July.
The Irishman’s arrival in Cardiff comes at a time when a feasibility study is assessing whether the UK and Ireland will go ahead with an attempt to host the 2030 World Cup.
While a FIFA feasibility study into shortening the gap between men’s and women’s World Cups from four to two years could potentially muddy the waters over any potential 2030 British and Irish bid, Mooney is confident that UEFA would welcome it.
“We obviously had the Euros semis and the final this year in England,” said Mooney, who led the Football Association of Ireland on secondment for six months in 2019.
“We had Glasgow hosting and nearly Dublin but for the pandemic. I was in Glasgow for some matches and London for the semis and final.
“Anybody who came here could really feel the love for football in the UK. No question about it.”
England hosted the World Cup in 1966 and Mooney said: “I think the time is right (for a British and Irish bid). Having worked in UEFA I know this very well.
“They do see the UK as very much the home of football. People love coming here and feel that football lives here.
“If you look at the concept of the Super League it was the fans in England who quickly said ‘This is not for us’ and that was a sign of how powerful football is – the culture, the heritage.
“It’s the same in Wales and having travelled around the country I’ve been pleasantly surprised how much football is liked here.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has promised a “bullet-proof” and “clean” bidding process for the 2030 World Cup after England’s attempt to host the 2018 tournament ended in failure amid allegations of sleaze and corruption.
Russia eventually staged those finals and Qatar gained the rights to 2022 on the same day in December 2010.
If selected as UEFA’s choice for 2030, the UK and Ireland would likely go forward to face a bid from South America – with Uruguay representing a sentimental choice given that it staged the first finals in 1930.
“Let’s see what comes out of the feasibility study but there have been very positive productive discussions between the five associations,” Mooney said.
“I think it goes in the right direction but let’s see and it’s a volatile time in the global sports market.
“You’ve got talk of a two-year World Cup and there could be something that happens outside our control in terms of formats of competitions and different things.
“We must wait until we have the final plan, but it is pretty clear that it would be good for the islands to host it.”
Mooney was speaking as the FAW has launched a new six-year strategy designed to make Wales a leading football nation by 2026, which will be the association’s 150th anniversary.
The plan entitled ‘Our Wales’ aims to ensure that football continues to grow rapidly, regarding inclusivity, accessibility and success on and off the field.
The FAW wants to increase the number of registered footballers from 90,000 to 120,000, double the size of the women and girl’s game and develop grassroots facilities in line with these targets.
“Alligning with Welsh Government and Sport Wales is paramount for us,” said Mooney.
“We must engage heavily with them to be an extension of what they’re trying to do in the country.
“If they’re looking for a partner to reach all their communities and all socio-demographic parts of Wales then there’s nothing like football to do that.
“The Welsh Government has outlined all their objectives and I’ve read the objectives of Sport Wales.
“By delivering that I strongly believe Wales would be a much healthier and happier country.”
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