EURO2008 study part 1: Old Firm Knock-Out!

Last updated : 23 June 2002 By Stuart Crowther

Glasgow clubs stadia counted out of Euro 2008 Bid
Celtic Nations bid is the only way forward for Scotland
(Stuart Crowther)

Part 1 - One City, One Stadium

If Scottish football fans are to be granted their wish of bringing the European Football Championship finals to Scotland, they will first have to accept the reality of the situation. There is just no way that Scotland - alone - can host that tournament.

Up until now those who wish to see this major football event in Scotland have clung to the 'minimum requirements' argument. This is along the lines that to bid for the championships, UEFA's stated minimum is that the host nation has in place at least six stadia with seated capacity for 30,000 or more fans. In addition, a host nation should be in a position to welcome upwards of 500,000 guests, and it should be in a position to accommodate these guests and transport them around the nation in safety and comfort.

Euro 96
set an irresistible trend (allsport)

The Scottish Football Association, under pressure from members of the Scottish Parliament and the Tartan Army themselves, are undertaking a feasibility study before deciding if they should mount a bid for the 2008 championships. It may not be a popular thing to say in campaigning to bring the European Nations to Scotland, but our own studies indicate that there is simply no way the SFA could conceivably decide to stage a solo Scottish bid, unless it were anything other than a publicity stunt.

The stated preference of the SFA has always been for Scotland to host the championships alone, while retaining a fallback position where consideration will be given to a joint bid, with the Republic of Ireland the favoured partner. Scotland's politicians have made similar public statements along these lines, urging the football authorities to mount a bid that the nationalists among them, at least, very much believe will help restore a Scottish national identity that the establishment of the Scottish Parliament itself has not yet quite achieved. While applauding this deep-rooted belief that hosting Euro 2008 would be nothing but good for Scotland on every level, someone at some point has to stop and take note of just how impossible the staging of a solo bid would be.

The most telling factor will be stadia criteria. The argument put forward has so far been that Scotland already has Ibrox, Parkhead, Hampden Park and Murrayfield, each a magnificent stadium and each meeting the criteria of 30,000 seats or more. The problem is that Hampden, Ibrox and Parkhead are all located in one city, and that would simply not wash with UEFA. A glance at the locations used for the last two championships, England in 1996 and the joint Holland/Belgium championships in 2000, show us why.

Ibrox magnificent stadium, but not any use! (allsport)

In England, 8 stadia were used in 8 different cities, and again in the 2000 tournament 4 stadia in Holland were used alongside another 4 in Belgium, again in different cities. And if that is not enough evidence of the true 'minimum requirement' acceptable to UEFA, then one only has to look at the 2004 finals to be staged by Portugal. Once again, 8 stadiums will be used, with five of these built just for the finals themselves - and again, each stadium is in a different city.

It is not then difficult to imagine that any bidding nation for the 2008 finals would need to look at the three previous tournaments and at least match the format used to win favour with UEFA. And that would mean in effect that Scotland have only two stadiums that could be used, Hampden Park would one assumes be the choice in Glasgow and Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh. Hardly something that would curry favour with Scotland's 'big two' clubs, Rangers and Celtic, as clearly Ibrox and Parkhead, magnificent as they are, could not be used! There is an added dimension to this problem, as if it were needed, in that the SFA and the Scottish Rugby Union, owners of Murrayfield, are hardly the best of pals with the football authority making it clear on more than one occasion that they did not wish to play football at the home of rugby.

So a realistic Scottish bid would have to include plans to rebuild or upgrade six additional stadiums around the country. It is difficult to envisage how that would be possible. Kilmarnock, Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness could conceivably produce a stadium each, this however would still leave two short, with only places such as Livingston and Perth worthy of further (albeit short) consideration. And a suggestion made by Iain St John recently that Scotland might like to consider using such as St James Park in Newcastle is not one that would even come off the drawing board, such a suggestion merely providing ammunition to those in Europe who have never saw the need for separate national football authorities in the UK.

the only choice for Glasgow (allsport)

Building new stadia of course is an option, and it is one that Portugal chose to take in their successful bid for the 2004 finals. Indeed it can be argued that the Portuguese were faced with many of the problems Scotland now faces in formulating a bid. Like Scotland, the game in Portugal has seen better times, as the Portuguese Football Federation chairman Gilberto Madail freely admits when he says: "
Our soccer infrastructure is very bad at the moment. But by 2004 we expect to be amongst the most advanced and modern in Europe."

Portugal have three 'big' clubs in Benfica, Sporting Lisbon and Porto, but even these clubs play to half-empty stadiums and certainly are not considered as large clubs when compared to the likes of Rangers and Celtic. Facilities in Portuguese stadia fall below what has become acceptable in Scotland, at least in the Scottish Premier League, as Madail confirmed in saying: "You would think twice before taking your wife to a stadium, god help her if she needs to use the bathroom!" These are familiar enough words in Scotland, which is why Portugal will draw admiration from any Scottish football fan for their audaciously successful bid for the 2004 finals.

In Part 2 - Celtic Nations Unite! Is it feasible for Scotland to join with other Celtic nations and produce the 8 stadia in 8 cities criteria required by UEFA? And even if it is possible, will our political masters show the financial commitment vital to any successful bid?

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