Grounds for concern

HeadLine: GROUNDS FOR CONCERN

The Mirror, 01/03/2002, p4&5
by SHAUN MILNE

SCOTLAND’S plans to host Euro2008 spiralled further into farce
yesterday.
Just hours after the Scottish and Irish Football Associations finally
announced their chaotic joint bid to stage the showpiece event, yet
another giant spanner was thrown in the works.
Irish rugby chiefs announced they would not allow their Lansdowne Road
ground to be brought up to UEFA standards unless the country’s
controversial new national stadium – dubbed the Bertie Bowl – gets the
go-ahead.
Turning Lansdowne Road into an all-seater stadium would reduce its
capacity by 14,000 and the sport’s governing body will not allow that,
unless they are certain they can stage big games at the Bertie Bowl.
Irish Rugby Football Union spokesman Malachi Quinn said: “An all-seated
Lansdowne Road would not be big enough to host major international
rugby matches, leaving us dependent on the new stadium being
completed.”
But the costly new stadium project has been shelved at least until
after the Irish elections in May and seems destined never to be built.
That would leave Ireland with just one possible stadium – Croke Park,
the home of Gaelic sport – and even that option may be ruled out when
GAA members vote in April on whether to allow football to be played on
their hallowed turf.
And, while yesterday’s joint announcement by the two football
associations merely informs UEFA of their intention to submit a
detailed bid by the end of May, there now seems little chance of a
credible package being put together in time.
The whole fiasco is proving a major embarrassment for First Minister
Jack McConnell.
Scots were desperate to launch a solo bid to host the tournament, which
would have ensured a massive boost to our economy.
But McConnell backed out, claiming that teaming up with Ireland was the
best way forward.
And yesterday the First Minister, along with both the Scottish and
Irish FAs, desperately tried to assure the world that we really were
heading for Euro glory.
At a press conference at Hampden Park, SFA president Jack McGinn and
his Irish counterpart Milo Corcoran were all smiles as they announced
the joint Celtic bid.
But neither was able to provide cast-iron guarantees that we would have
enough stadia to succeed, despite their repeated claims of being
“confident”.
The SFA’s chief executive, David Taylor, tried to sound upbeat and
said: “We have had assurances from the Irish Government that the
stadiums will be in place in time.
“The governments have realised the massive benefit to be gained from
hosting something on this scale.”
The FAI refused to answer the vital question about which stadia will be
used, repeating the party line: “We have been guaranteed two stadiums
but we do not know which ones yet.”
Then came the Irish Rugby Union’s killer intervention last night.
Brian Monteith, Tory spokesman for sport, said: “The fact that the
Irish Rugby Union is threatening not to have refurbishment unless
Bertie’s Bowl is built just reinforces what we have said all along –
that all of this should have been sorted out months ago.
“It is stupid for these problems to be cropping up at the 11th hour.”
SNP leader John Swinney added: “The handling of this bid has been
absolutely atrocious and Jack McConnell now runs the risk of scuppering
our chances completely.
“We need to move forward now though and concentrate on putting together
the best bid possible.
“And we need to make sure the Scottish Executive does not lack the
ambition to do that.”
FAI president Milo Corcoran said it would be up to the GAA to decide if
games could be staged at Croke Park.
Mr Corcoran stressed: “A new national stadium and a refurbished
Lansdowne Road are our two preferred options.
“Whatever happens with Croke Park is out of our hands but we are very
excited about the prospect of hosting the tournament.”
John Delaney, the treasurer of the FAI, said: “We met our government
last night and got absolute assurances we will have two stadia
available.”
Delaney said he felt the bid would not be harmed regardless of the
result of Ireland’s general election in May.
He said: “I’m certain any government who came into power wouldn’t want
to damage our bid.
“My preference would be to build a new national stadium and also use
Lansdowne Road.
“Whether or not Croke Park can be used is a matter for the GAA and not
an issue for us but I think we have a great chance.”
Under the provisional deal worked out between the two football
associations, Scotland would host the showpiece final and opening match
as well as a semi-final and three quarter-finals.
Ireland are only allocated one group stage, a quarter-final and one
semi-final match but FAI officials yesterday insisted they were happy
with the arrangement.
SFA chief executive David Taylor described the relationship between the
two football associations as “very good and very strong”.
Taylor added: “We can go forward with confidence.”
Defiant First Minister Jack McConnell called for everyone to back the
joint bid and end the “cynicism and suspicion” surrounding it.
He said: “I’m absolutely delighted that the Irish government has done
exactly what they said they would do and come in by the deadline. We
now have a joint bid and this is a very exciting time for football.
“I am absolutely confident that both sides can produce a first class
bid which can produce the best championship ever.
“It is time to be positive and to put the cynicism and suspicion behind
us.”
Six Scottish stadiums will be used, including Ibrox, Parkhead, Hampden
and Murrayfield.
The options for the other two grounds include building new stadia in
Dundee and Aberdeen and the upgrading of Hibernian’s ground.
The Scottish Executive has pledged £70million to help host the
prestigious event.

**

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Categories: Daily Mirror articles

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