Scots and Welsh discuss bid

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The Independent Online

The Scottish and Welsh football associations are set for talks in February over the prospect of co-hosting the 2016 European Championships. The Scottish Football Association and Football Association of Wales both confirmed yesterday "tentative" discussions over launching a joint bid for the event had taken place.

Scotland's long-standing aim of staging the finals appeared to have ended in September when Uefa announced they were increasing the number of participants from 16 to 24 in eight years' time. The country lacks the infrastructure to host an expanded tournament but the SFA are looking to link up with one of their near neighbours in the hope a combined bid will be successful. They have also held talks with Northern Ireland, but it is believed this is a non-starter, leaving Wales as the only viable alternative.

An SFA spokesman said: "We would love to host the European Championships in Scotland. However, we realise it's a huge undertaking and, as far as 2016 goes, we simply couldn't host it by ourselves. We're meeting with the other Home Nations at the International Football Association board meeting in Belfast in February.

"I'm sure it's something we'll discuss. If there was a feeling that a bid was a possibility, we would then commission a feasibility study."

Talks between the SFA and the FAW over a joint bid have been mooted for more than a year, with the latter revealing in April 2007 they hoped to enter into discussions. But today marked the first time the SFA have confirmed such talks have taken place.

An FAW spokesman said "very tentative" discussions have been ongoing for some time. The FAW secretary general, David Collins, said: "The matter is on the agenda for our council meeting next week." Uefa decided in September to expand the European Championship finals from 2016.

The SFA chief executive, Gordon Smith, had lobbied for the change, despite admitting it would rule his country out of bidding individually for future tournaments. However, as the expansion gives Scotland a much better chance of qualifying, Smith felt it was a sacrifice worth making.

Uefa are set to seek bid submissions for the 2016 finals in the spring and the expansion is likely to see the number of 30,000-plus stadia needed to host the tournament increase from eight to at least 10. Scotland currently boasts only four such grounds and Wales just one, but most bidding countries start from a position of having to develop existing facilities or build new ones. That includes Poland and Ukraine, who are hosting the 2012 finals.

The Uefa general secretary, David Taylor, insists Scotland would be a "great place" to hold the tournament. Former SFA chief executive Taylor, who was involved in the unsuccessful bid to bring Euro 2008 to Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, added in The Herald: "It would be terrific. But I must be careful here. My enthusiasm for and advice to any country could be perceived in the wrong way. Many countries in Uefa are capable of hosting the tournament."

The prospect of a Scotland bid received backing from across the country's political spectrum. The sports minister, Stewart Maxwell, of the Scottish National Party, said: "Ultimately it will be for the SFA to decide whether to bid to host Euro 2016.

"Given that Uefa has increased the number of teams that qualify for the finals to 24 from 2016 onwards, it would be a major challenge to meet the stadium requirements. But I'm sure every football fan in Europe would relish the possibility of their nation hosting or co-hosting such a prestigious and major event as football's European championship."

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