Celtic cousins join forces in hope of hosting Euro 2020
Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland are set to mount a joint bid to host Euro 2020. Turkey and Georgia are the other predicted bidders and as both countries have potentially serious flaws as prospective hosts, the Celtic nations will stand a good chance should they decide to translate a declaration of interest into a concrete bid.
Last night was the deadline for countries to register an interest in hosting the finals, which would be the first in the United Kingdom for 24 years. Interested countries now have 18 months to table an actual bid, which would need 10 stadiums to host the 24-team finals. The expanded finals require all three to bid together to meet the stadium criteria.
It would be the first time a major finals has been hosted by three nations but the bid is likely to garner strong support if Turkey and Georgia remain the only other entrants.
Turkey, which had previously received public backing from Michel Platini, the president of Uefa, is believed to have lost a degree of support recently over a match-fixing scandal that continues to bedevil the Turkish FA. Istanbul is also bidding for the 2020 Olympic Games and neither Uefa nor the International Olympic Committee believe a country can host both.
A senior Uefa official told the Press Association: "Many in Uefa are losing patience with Turkey due to the chaos in the football there. The Olympic clash does not help either so this could be good news for Scotland, Wales and Ireland if they were to proceed with a bid."
Uefa are keen to encourage a Celtic bid, especially as Georgia are expected to struggle to match the stadium criteria, as the governing body want to oversee a contest for their flagship international event. France will host the 2016 finals, but none of the other major European nations have expressed an interest. England, Germany and Spain have ruled themselves out and Russia is holding the 2018 World Cup. Hosting a 24-team tournament is beyond most nations on their own.
Scotland and Ireland mounted a joint bid for Euro 2008 but disagreements over the potential use of Croke Park fatally undermined it and it was one of the first to be crossed off the list. Scotland and Wales thought about bidding together for 2016 but the project never got off the ground.
Jonathan Ford, the chief executive of the Football Association of Wales, said: "It is not a bid, it's a declaration of interest and that will allow us to obtain the information from Uefa so that we can fully assess and determine, independently and together, whether we should submit a bid."
The three associations will now begin exploring the detail with possible venues in Dublin, Cardiff, Swansea, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.
Ireland are competing at Euro 2012 this summer, but Scotland have not qualified for a major finals since the 1998 World Cup in France. Wales have to go back to the World Cup of 1958.
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