The UEFA delegation who are to visit Croke Park on Monday may as well not bother according to an un-named source within the Gaelic Athletic Association's (GAA's) central council. He says that the GAA does not intend to open Croke Park to football even on once-off basis for EURO2008. This follows a disappointing week for news from Ireland. It was started off by the surprise news announced by Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern that the Stadium Ireland project would have to be funded by the private sector. He followed that by saying that he would ask the GAA to make Croke Park available as a EURO2008 venue. This was unlikely to get a positive response according to a member of the GAA's Central Council. While wishing to remain anonymous the official did say: "If Croke Park is to be opened to other sports, it will be based on our needs and not to promote a soccer tournament".
He went on to, suggest that if there was a first soccer game at Croke Park, it wouldn't be a Euro 2008 match. With the GAA hosting a special congress at the end of October (to debate possible changes to gaelic football) it may have been hoped that the EURO2008 issue would be discussed. However the issue is not on the agenda. We all know that the 2002 congress voted against opening Croke Park to other sports. This was a surprise as the motion to open up the ground was defeated by a single vote at the 2001 congress.
Just before that vote, the Irish government allocated £50m to the GAA for the completion of Croke Park. With all government allocation to sport in Ireland to be subject of a fundamental review it now be the case that the remaining £25m of the grant is withheld due to economic difficulties. Of course, the GAA may think that the government is blackmailing them into allowing Croke Park for EURO2008. According to whispers in the corridors of power in Ireland the grant was given to the GAA on the understanding that the Stadium Ireland project would go ahead. The GAA stance in that the grant was allocated on a "no-strings-attached" basis and that they are legally entitled to the remainder of the money. Not the kind of argument you wnat to have all over the media as UEFA fly in.