The EURO2008 bid looks to be in serious trouble. The Irish have promised to deliver two stadiums as part of the package of eight which makes up the joint bid from the SFA and the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). One of the grounds was expected to be Stadium Ireland, an expensive dream of Berti Ahern, the Irish prime minister or Taoiseach. We reported yesterday (Monday) on the disagreement over priorities between the two partners in the Irish government (Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats (PDs)), Mary Harney, leader of the PDs and deputy prime minister, has been against the idea of Stadium Ireland from the start. And it appears the junior partner in the coalition has won the day. The Irish Government announced that: "in the current circumstances, it is not in a position to provide any Exchequer funding" for the stadium project". They now hope to interest private funding to meet the estimated £315 million (500 million euro) price tag for the stadium.
There was a short statement released after Monday's cabinet meeting which said the government had made the decision because of the current economic circumstances. Optimistic as ever, sport mad Ahern's spokesman said the Taoiseach remained optimistic he would be in a turning the first sod on the site. I wonder if he will still as optimistic when he reads what a leading Irish economist had to say. Jim Power suggested there was no prospect of private investors agreeing to build Stadium Ireland when he said: "It's inconceivable that the private sector would get involved unless there are patriots out there who want to waste money".
Not even off the drawing board
This is not what UEFA want to hear. They will be able to hear exactly the situation when their delegation lands in Dublin on the 16th. With the GAA's Croke Park in Dublin off limits to 'foreign' sports, the Irish were counting on Stadium Ireland being part of the deal with the SFA. The other element of their contribution was to be a redeveloped Lansdowne Road. This may also not be on the cards as the Irish Rugby Union only agreed to let their ground be upgraded if Stadium Ireland was a reality. The joint bid teams will now have to work on the GAA to change their mind about the use of Croke Park. They may have to ask for it to be used on a once off basis for EURO2008. Even that could be difficult as it would require a rule change by the organisation which precludes soccer and rugby being played in its grounds. After hearing Monday's statement, GAA president Sean McCague said that only the organisation's annual congress in April could vote to open Croke Park to other sports. That could be 4 months too late.
Just for information here are the details of the UEFA delegation's tour of inspection
Monday 16th September - 15:30 . Government Buildings, Dublin
UEFA Inspection Team meet and An Taoiseach, Berti Ahern
Tuesday 17th September - 11:00. Dundee City Chambers, Dundee
UEFA Inspection Team meet members of the Tartan Army.
Tuesday PM (exact time TBC) Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh.
Photo opportunity at football pitch marked out at Murrayfield Stadium.
Wednesday 18th September -14:30. Bute House, Edinburgh
Scotland’s First Minister Jack McConnell meets the UEFA Inspection Team.
Thursday 19th September - 16:00. Hampden Park, Glasgow
Photo opportunity of the UEFA Inspection Team on the pitch.
Friday 20th September - 11:30. Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow