The degree of panic in the offices of the SFA and the First Minister when Bert Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister, announced that no government money would be available for Stadium Ireland is hard to imagine. However, once they had a chance to discuss with their respective Irish counterparts, both parties appear reassured that the bid for EURO2008 remains alive and well. The commitment to provide two stadiums in Ireland remains strong. A good job when UEFA inspectors are due to arrive in Ireland and Scotland next week to assess the two nations' suitability for hosting the event. Stadium Ireland will have to be privately funded and Ahern does not see any major difficulty with the change in funding source for his dream.
Crisis? What Crisis?
SFA chief executive David Taylor remained optimistic and tried to calm things down when he said: "There is no cause for alarm. We have re-stated on a number of occasions the guarantees from the Irish government that they will deliver two stadia of the required nature for the bid. That hasn't changed, but there has been a change in the nature of funding for Stadium Ireland. But all the indications are that this is the preferred route for funding and better for timescales." While he would say that, Irish financial experts are sceptical over the likelihood of the private sector getting involved in Stadium Ireland.
First Minister Jack McConnell is also confident the bid is on track. He had obviously been in touch with his Irish counterpart before he said yesterday: "They (the Irish government) are still very strongly committed to this bid and they will put on a good presentation to the inspection team on Monday. I know Bertie believes the quickest way to finance a national stadium is to secure that stadium as part of a wider development on that site and for that development to be lead by the private sector. The adverts are in the Irish press today (Friday) and, if they keep meeting the deadlines, we will be delighted. A number of people have expressed an interest and they have had to advertise properly to get that interest formally expressed."
Confident in the Irish
With all this going on, it is worth while stating just how prepared we are. We are not alone in having problems with funding issues. The SFA's Taylor remains convinced the joint bid is the strongest candidate among the field of seven competing to host EURO2008. Taylor said: "We start from a better position than our principal competitors in terms of the size of our stadiums and the number already built. We believe the package is a very attractive and innovative one for UEFA to award us the championships. In Switzerland, a stadium in Zurich has not been built, it is going to be private sector funded and also needs a referendum of the local populace to go ahead. We are not in that position and we have to keep things in perspective."