Euro 2008 - The Fans Campaign
Joint bid the way ahead for Scotland?
Scottish dreams of hosting the European Championships in 2008 could rest with a joint Scotland/Ireland bid, according to Harry Been, secretary of the Dutch FA, co-hosts of EURO2000.
The Scots have some serious competition for EURO2008, not the least being the entry of Russian into the bidding war. The Russians however have just one stadium that fully meets UEFA criteria for the tournament - the 84,000-seater Luzniki Stadium in Moscow. However the Russian Football Federation secretary Vladimir Radionov has indicated that if his government place guarantees of funding for upgrading of existing facilities, then his nation will place a bid for the 2008 tournament by 2003.
SFA Chief Executive David Taylor is presently putting together a feasibility study on a Scottish bid, which might take the form of a solo-Scottish bid or a joint bid with another UK country, with the Irish emerging as the natural partners in such a bid. The prize for a successful Euro bid is high - with both Holland and Belgium said to have collected between £100m-£200m each from the 2000 tournament.
Been has offered the Scots assistance in any bid they may consider putting forward for the 2008 tournament, the Dutchman saying: "If the SFA wish to ask our advice or help on how to make a bid I would be more than happy to help out. My suggestion however would be that Scotland go for a joint bid, with perhaps help from Ireland, as it would have much more chance of success that going it alone. Holland could have gone down the solo route for the 2000 tournament, however it was felt much better to go with a partnership deal with Belgium." Government support would be vital to any Scottish bid, and the SFA have already had tentative support from the Scottish Executive. The joint budget for staging EURO2000 came to around £50m - a sum that clearly would increase by 2008, and a factor that might yet scare off any UK Government support.
Of Government support for the 2000 tournament, Been said: "We had varying levels of Government support because some of the stadia in Belgium are owned by the city authorities and some in Holland by the clubs,' said Been. 'The Governments took on the cost of security, to pay all the police costs and so on and the joint budget for that ran to £50m."
Much has also been said of the ability of Scotland to handle the large influx of visitors for the tournament. The fact that over 1 million tickets were sold for EURO2000 matches has been quoted as an example of why Scotland could not handle such an influx. However, Been has revealed that while there were over 1 million ticket sales, the vast majority of these were to Belgian or Dutch nationals, with some 500,000 tickets sold to visiting fans.
A joint Scotland and Ireland bid then would handle such numbers with ease, and so another factor in the arguments against a Scottish bid can be discarded. What is becoming clear is that those who argue against a Scottish bid for EURO2008 are fast becoming a minority, with Scottish fans and politicians attacking those tabloid journalists who still insist that the whole matter is pure fantasy.
Been is certainly confident that Scotland could handle EURO2008, saying: "I have not doubt that the SFA could organise an event like EURO2008. I repeat however that a joint Scotland and Ireland bid would be better received, because it would share responsibility and spread the games - and supporters - over a wider area." One thing is certain - Scotland will need to act quickly to get a start on the opposition, as one thing can be certain - the Russians are Coming!