The deadline for submitting bids to host EURO2008 has finally come around. The due date for bids to be with UEFA is Friday but Scotland and Ireland's joint bid will be submitted today three days early. This is the culmination of months of work on behalf of the SFA, the FAI and the clubs involved. This site has been following and supporting the bid for over 18 months under the banner 'WHY THE HELL NOT!'. We feel some sort of pride that, despite all what the doubters and detractors have had to say, that this day has been reached.
Why The Hell Not!
The SFA/FAI document will be launched by the bid team ably supported by Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson and details of the bid will be released later today. The Irish end was to be promoted by Roy Keane but I think the SFA/FAI have been wise to let that one pass for the moment. We know that we already have 4 grounds that meet UEFA's criteria and the main interest will be in which 2 other grounds will be used as Scotland's share of the bid. The Irish will be required to supply the other two and the SFA's project manager for the bid, John Henderson, is confident that they will deliver.
Henderson said: "The bid document is the culmination of months of hard work. It is fairly detailed stuff, running to more than 500 pages responding to the guidelines UEFA have set us. But we believe we have come up with a high-quality bid, coming as it does so soon after the Champions League final at Hampden which was attended by all the key decision makers when, I believe, we demonstrated to them all that we can organise such an event - Glasgow had a great party."
Only backs winners
The party for the Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen Champions League Final went off without a hitch and impressed the visiting officials. However, that would be small beer compared to staging tie third biggest sporting event in the world with over half a million fans visiting the two countries to watch the 31 games. Henderson is confident that the SFA/.FAI can pull it off as he said: "Our simple objective is to win, but there is no point in winning it unless we are confident of running an efficient and great tournament. We believe that we have the experience, with events such as the Champions League final; international rugby matches at Murrayfield, the Open and the Hogmanay celebrations which show that you can have a massive event run successfully in Edinburgh city centre."
Scotland and Ireland have been banging the drum for EURO2008 with the full support of Ministers in both countries. First Minister Jack McConnell, Mike Watson, minister for tourism, culture and sport, and Ireland’s James McDaid, minister for tourism, sport and recreation all attended the annual UEFA Congress in Stockholm last month. They made up the largest government contingent apart from the host country Sweden.
Football and government together for a change
Many have said that the facilities that Scotland and Ireland can muster do not compare with the competition (Austria and Switzerland (joint bid), Bosnia and Croatia (joint bid), Greece and Turkey (joint bid), Nordic countries (joint bid), Hungary (solo bid), Russia (solo bid)). Henderson was not fazed by what they might produce as he knows what we already have in place. Henderson said: "Four of the stadia put forward as part of the bid are already in place. These provide 1.7 million seats, 500,000 more than our rivals, while Murrayfield is bigger than any other venue the other countries can put forward. Add the three big grounds in Glasgow and we out-strip them all.". While many will say that size is not everything, UEFA like the idea of global audiences and what Scotland and Ireland will deliver is right up their street. Henderson went on: "There will be 31 matches and television audiences will be in the billions. We envisage an influx of 500,000 visitors from overseas although, of course, they won’t all be coming at the same time. The greatest influx will be at the group stage - three of which will be held in Scotland - but as you move through the tournament fans will, naturally, return to their home countries."
The bulk of the hard work has been done. But there are still opportunities to underline the strength of the bid and Henderson is going to make sure that every chance is grasped with both hands. He said: "The SFA’s chief executive, David Taylor, and I will be going to Geneva on June 19 to make a presentation to UEFA - as will the other bidding countries. That’s another opportunity to influence UEFA, while we have to run the campaign to make sure their 14-man executive committee know about the bid and to keep it high profile. In September, we anticipate a week-long visit from UEFA to Scotland and Ireland to look at facilities and then comes the decision in December. If we win, we have five years to roll up our sleeves and deliver an event which goes as well, if not better, than the Champions League final."
Lots of hard work still ahead
The competition will, of course, be making similar confident announcements. A top tip to watch out for is the bid from Austria and Switzerland as is Nordic 2008. The others could well get a letter from UEFA by return saying 'Thanks for your note of interest but...not this time'. The troubled history of Bosnia/Croatia and Greece/Turkey will count against these joint bids while the strength of a solo bid from Hungary may not be enough this time round. The Russian government has decided to support their football federation's bid again. This is the third change of mind that I can remember and this type of uncertainty and the cost of hosting a large event will make UEFA let this one go. All worthy contenders in their own way but as the bidding process has developed and as John Henderson has regularly kept this site up to date with progress, I have become more and more convinced that we stand a great chance of success. Others who suggest that the money which will be required to make the bid a reality could be better utilised may have a case. However, with the chance to stride the world stage at stake, I have only one thing to say - EURO2008? - WHY THE HELL NOT!