McLeish backing 2008

Last updated : 24 June 2002 By Stuart Crowther and Ger Harley

McLeish backs Euro Bid

Scotland's First Minister Henry McLeish is ready to back Scotland's bid to host the European Championships in 2008, it has been revealed this morning.

Scottish-Fitba understands that the new First Minister has finally seen the light as far as the benefits for the country as a whole that can be accrued by staging an international tournament. Hoping to pick up where the other game of chasing a small ball around a large green area, Ryder 2007, leaves off, former East Fife professional football McLeish is willing to put his money where his political mouth is, and stump up significant amounts of money in support of the Euro2008 bid. The money and goodwill these tournaments generate are a worthwhile return on Government and business investment. Tourism is big business in Scotland and the relaunched Tourist board has already indicated strong support for a Scottish Euro 2008 bid, and is likely to welcome further support from the Scottish Parliament.

Official sources are quoted as saying McLeish will ensure his administration will do all that it can to encourage the SFA to get the finger out in formulating an appropriate bid. Much work needs to be done to to bring stadia up to the required standard and the politicians know that this will require investment. The recent embarrassing game against Australia was the backdrop to outline discussions between the newly appointed sport and culture Minister, Allan Wilson, and David Taylor, Chief Executive of the SFA. While a blank cheque will never be offered, the government is willing to support any bid, with cash no doubt oiling the many difficulties that will crop up in the process.

McLeish - former footballer backing Scottish bid

Scotland's limited football resources would be stretched if a solo bid was considered the best way ahead. 16 countries across 31 games around the country to get the most out of the event, you do the arithmetic. Basic criteria is 6 grounds of 30,000 capacity, we have at the moment 4, all in the central belt (as long as the Scottish Rugby Union agrees). Consideration of upgrading Pittodrie (22,199), Tynecastle (18,000), Tannadice (14,255) or Easter Road (16,032) would cost significant money. And that's just the option appraisal. Getting the bricks on top of bricks will make the accountants eyes water. However that is the first option that Scottish politicians and the SFA will consider, with the perhaps more likely option of a joint bid with Ireland being held in reserve.

It will not be forgotten that finding the traveling fans a bed for the night or allowing them to travel will need to be addressed. UEFA insist that host nations have hotels (of the 5 star variety) available with 4,000 beds at each venue. Air, road and rail facilities would all have to be improved. However there would be something to show for all the expense the country would have to meet, as improved infrastructure will be of benefit to Scotland for many years after the football has ended.

Caution is the watchword in this kind of thing and the SFA are experts at that. A feasibility study is underway at the moment which is due to be completed next year. But with the 2002 European Champions League final (to be played at Hampden) already in the bag, Scottish fans are now asking why we should not go for the big one in 2008.

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