McCONNELL IN FIGHTING FORM
The bid is in your hands Jack
Jack McConnell managed to wow UEFA with his rolled up sleeves approach to selling the joint bid for EURO2008 in Sweden this week. The only Government leader to be at UEFA's Congress in person, he made sure they all the key people heard just how much he is backing the joint SFA/FAI bid. Strategically placed at the entrance to the exhibition hall for the competing bids, the presentation by the First Minister, backed by the sports ministers from Ireland and Scotland, was impressive. So impressive that the stands manned by the Russian and Austria/Switzerland were deserted by early afternoon. McConnell was keen to show he was right behind the bid when he said: "In the (World Cup) votes for Germany in 2006 and Portugal (EURO2004) in 2004, delegates were heavily influenced by the support of these countries governments. I came here with Mike Watson and Dr Jim McDaid to demonstrate that commitment - but I also came with signed letters of support from Tony Blair and each of the opposition party leaders in Scotland."
Scotland's stand was one of only a few that newly re-elected UEFA President Lennart Johansson found time to stop at and McConnell did not miss the golden chance. McConnell said: "Johansson came to to our stand - but did not make it round the others. Everybody in football knows the three big Glasgow stadiums and, while it is only the start of a long haul, the message is getting through: We can deliver".
SWEET FA BACKING
With the English national stadium having to be redeveloped using a German bank's money (another excuse to show 'that' game on the news - again!), you would think that the FA's executive director, David Davies, would be keeping a low profile. However, he appears to be contradicting previous messages of support for our EURO2008 bid by saying that the FA's board of management have not decided how they will vote. This appears to be at odds with the support offered by the FA's president Geoff Thompson to his SFA counterpart, Jack McGinn over a month ago. Davies suggested that with the strength of the other bids in mind, Scotland and Ireland should prepare to be disappointed as England were were the 2006 World Cup vote went to Germany.
Davies went on the dam with feint praise when he said: "Those of us involved in EURO96 know it is a very exciting time for the SFA and FAI. What we experienced that June will live with us for the rest of our lives. If the Scots and Irish get it, I have no doubts they will do it extremely well. Winning a competition like this brings the country together like never before. So it is worthwhile pursuing the bid - even if it is ultimately unsuccessful."
Despite indicating that they would not be submitting a bid on several occasions, the Russian Football Union (RFU) still plan to bid to bring EURO2008 to Mother Russia although they have failed to secure government backing. Alexander Tukmanov, executive director of the RFU, said there was 'no question' the bid would not go ahead. He added: "I don't think anyone should start to panic and worry at this stage that our government has yet to give its approval. I think this has more to do with bureaucracy, as governments in any country have, than them being negative about it."
On Tuesday, local media reported that Russian government officials had decided against the bid because of the cost of building the world class stadiums, modern international airports, hotels and other necessary infrastructure required. Experts estimate the project would cost Russian taxpayers at least $1 billion. But Tukmanov said: "We still have time to persuade our government. I think that they simply cannot ignore the wishes of our people who overwhelmingly voted in favour of the EURO2008 bid."
RFU president Vyacheslav Koloskov is heading a large Russian delegation to the UEFA Congress in Stockholm which Jack McConnell impressed this week. Koloskov remained optimistic about his country's chances. Koloskov said "Even if the government reaction was negative we would still present our exhibition".