Scotland and Ireland consolidate 2008 bid plan

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The Independent Online

The Scottish Football Association has announced that they have made "considerable progress" in their plans to submit a joint bid to host the 2008 European Championship with Ireland.

Senior officials of both countries' associations met at Hampden yesterday and SFA chief executive David Taylor is confident that together the two countries are capable of hosting a successful event.

"I am very encouraged that we have made considerable progress in setting up the organisational structure for the bid," Taylor said, "and have agreed one vision, one aim and one set of objectives.

"We will work together to submit a high-quality bid and run a professional campaign that will highlight Scotland and Ireland's position as suitable host nations for Euro 2008.

"I have no doubt that we will be able to run a successful tournament, both commercially and organisationally, and that it will be enjoyed by millions.

"Hosting the championship would raise the profile of Scotland and Ireland as credible venues for hosting major sporting events, with consequent tourism benefits, and could ensure a lasting legacy for football development in Scotland and Ireland."

The two countries will face opposition from, amongst others, joint bids by Switzerland and Austria, Greece and Turkey, Bosnia and Croatia and a solo application from Hungary. During the meeting in Glasgow, detailed discussions were held on tournament venues and match schedules.

Brendan Menton, the general secretary of the Football Association of Ireland, confirmed: "We have reached a broad understanding on these matters, but no final decisions will be taken until we have considered all the logistical issues. This will ensure we put together the best possible bid to [the game's European ruling body] Uefa."

A steering committee will be set up, comprising officials from the SFA and FAI together with the Scottish Executive and the Irish Government.

The SFA has tried to defuse the row with Celtic over moving the date of their Tennents Scottish Cup tie with Aberdeen back 48 hours to 25 February.

The Celtic manager, Martin O'Neill, was annoyed by the SFA's decision to move the quarter-final from Saturday to a Monday night. He claimed the club had not been consulted over the decision and that Celtic fans, who would have to make a round trip of almost 360 miles to Pittodrie, had been overlooked.

The SFA, however, insisted that both clubs had been contacted about the switch. In any case they had little choice in the matter due to contractual obligations to Sky television, which wanted to screen the game.

An SFA spokesman, Andy Mitchell, said: "There's two elements to this - whether the game if selected by Sky should be played on a Saturday night. In that respect, yes, there was consultation with Grampian Police and both clubs.

"In respect of where the game should be moved to, that was a decision taken effectively by Sky because they have a contract to show a live match and the Monday night was the only available time to do that.

"Sky make a decision in every round of the Cup and try to try to move it for TV purposes and have always done by Sky and always done without direct prior consultation with the clubs. The usual timing of Saturday night was not available so Sky had only one free slot which was Monday night.

"They could not have moved the match to Sunday because Forfar are playing Rangers in the north-east and they couldn't have Celtic and Rangers both travelling to the north-east on the same day.

"They couldn't move it forward to the Saturday because a lunchtime kick-off requires Sky's existing coverage of Manchester United against Aston Villa to be altered, therefore Monday evening was the only possible timing."

The SFA has confirmed that the Celtic chief executive Ian McLeod had contacted them to express his concern about the fixture. However they are insistent that there is no chance of the new date being overturned.

"We had a meeting with the broadcasters on Monday morning when that decision was taken and that's the bottom line," said Mitchell.

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