|As the weather closes in on the football games over the winter months I would like to help you look forward to sunnier days. This may look like something you have all heard before but the momentum for a tartan Euro 2008 must be maintained if the bid stands a chance.|
Welcome support for Scotland to offer a realistic bid for the 2008 European Championships has come from two of the Euro 2000 directors, Harry Been (Holland's FA secretary) and Alain Courtois (Belgium FA). While recognising that the bid could have to be a joint effort with either Wales or Ireland, they are convinced that a Celtic bid, backed by the Scottish Executive would be a hard one to beat.
The SFA has already instigated a feasibility study on the possibility of Scotland making a success of the third largest sporting event in the world. The process is expected to be completed in March or April this year. David Taylor, Chief Executive of the SFA, has already had outline operational discussions with Been and Courtois. These could be the first of many before the UEFA bid deadline date of Autumn 2002 (with the winners being announced in 2003). The level of co-operation between the SFA, The Scottish Executive, UEFA and the clubs who own the stadia that either meet the criteria or could be upgraded in time would be challenging to say the least. However, when you consider that both the Belgium and Holland economies made £100M from staging the last Championships I am sure that any local difficulties could be overcome.
First Minister Henry McLeish is
still backing the Scottish bid
As previously announced in Scottish-Fitba and lesser publications, any bid requires the country or countries involved to have at least 6 stadiums available which could hold 30,000. At the moment Scotland have four: Hampden (52,000): Parkhead (60,500): Ibrox (50,400) and the under-utilised Murryfield (67,500). The SRU have been sounded out and are more that willing to help (as any income generated outwith rugby would help with their substantial overdraft). The facilities of at least two other grounds would have to be upgraded to meet the basic criteria. In Scotland, to make it a truly Scottish bid, consideration would have to be given to upgrading Pittodrie, either Dens Park or Tannadice (ideal for a ground share after 2008?) and either Tynecastle or Easter Road.
The upgrading of Easter Road has been the subject of Council debates, as the land behind the current ground is wanted by at least two consortiums for development. There would no doubt be other problems to be overcome with the other grounds selected for upgrading. If it was to be a joint bid with Ireland, they could have two grounds in Dublin that would meet the capacity criteria: Eircom Park (45,000) (a planned development sponsored by telecommunication company Eircom) and Lansdowne Road (42,000).
When you think of the size of the competition (31 games over June -July watched by up to 500,000 visitors) some interesting and imaginative decisions would be required to make this happen. The costs would be substantial but the return would surely outweigh these IF the right people were in the right places to make the right decisions at the right time. Euro 2000 was the first such championship to make a profit. The lessons that could be learned from the organisers of that event, who have suggested that they would be willing to work as consultants to the Scotland bid, should enable the event to break even at the very least.
There are already three hats in the ring for 2008, Turkey-Greece (although with their history in mind it may not come to be): Austria - Switzerland and the Norse countries of Norway, Denmark and Finland. Harry Been has been asked to help the Viking bid but has indicated that he would not be averse to working for the SFA on their bid (could be a case of keeping his options open). He is supposed to be working with Germany and Japan on their respective World Cup plans. However, he says he would prefer to work in Scotland than Japan. And so say all of us.