Scotland and Ireland favour joint 2008 bid

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The Independent Football

David Taylor, the Scottish Football Association's chief executive, believes Scotland has a better chance of hosting the 2008 European Championships after a joint bid with Ireland was given official backing.

Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell, announced yesterday that the Scottish Executive would back a joint bid which Taylor thinks could be successful. Taylor said: "The First Minister has made clear that the Scottish Executive will offer its unequivocal financial backing for a joint Euro 2008 bid involving Scotland and Ireland. This will involve six stadia in Scotland and two in Ireland.

"I am convinced that a joint bid can be a winnable position if we are able to present a varied and innovative bid. It will allow many more football people in Scotland and Ireland to take part in the tournament.

"I have already spoken to my counterpart in Dublin and I look forward to an early opportunity to discuss the bid in detail when we travel tomorrow to Portugal for the Euro 2004 draw. I am convinced we can deliver a strong bid."

The Football Association of Ireland is promising to play a full part in their joint bid, with Lansdowne Road fulfilling criteria to host matches and a new stadium to be built. Brendan Menton, the FAI's general secretary, said: "The Scots and ourselves are good friends. We both have very, very strong football traditions. I think we're looking at a situation where we would have five stadia in the 50,000-80,000 capacity."

Hampden Park, Murrayfield, Ibrox and Parkhead are the front runners to host Euro 2008 matches in Scotland with those stadiums already meeting the criteria. Taylor said that Aberdeen's Pittodrie, Hibernian's Easter Road and a purpose-built stadium in Dundee would also come under consideration.

The First Minister had earlier indicated the Executive would not back the building of the extra four stadiums required by the European football's governing body, Uefa.

McConnell said: "We have concluded that to create four 30,000-seat stadiums on top of our excellent facilities at Murrayfield, Hampden, Ibrox and Celtic Park is simply not practical or desirable.

"There is no foreseeable need for four more stadiums of this size. They would be expensive and there are serious doubts about whether Scotland could guarantee four new stadiums to Uefa's specification in time for 2008. We have, therefore, ruled out the possibility of Scotland bidding alone for the European Football Championships in 2008."

The First Minister went on to tell the Scottish parliament that the Cabinet had looked "carefully" at the costs and benefits of a joint bid and went on: "We have concluded that, if we do this right, there is the potential to host a successful and viable joint championship with Ireland," he said.

"We have assurances from the SFA that, if we do make the bid, then together we could make these the best Uefa Championships yet.

"The SFA and the clubs currently estimate that the costs to the Executive would be no more than £50m to £70m in total. We will be working with them over the next few months to minimise the cost to the public purse of the stadiums required and to maximise the benefits to local communities from any new facilities and from hosting the event.

"We shouldn't be over-confident – but I believe that, if we do this right and unite behind the bid, then we can win."