WHEN Scotland last attempted to stage the European Championship finals, they did so in tandem with the Republic of Ireland.
Today the SFA will lodge its bid for Glasgow to become a host city for the tournament in 2020 in the knowledge that their Irish counterparts could be one of their main obstacles to success.
But, unlike the bidding process for Euro 2008, which saw the joint Scottish-Irish effort to host the finals suffer ultimately ignominious failure, the prospects of Hampden as a venue for the second-biggest competition in world football are far more realistic this time.
Uefa president Michel Platini’s plan to see the 60th anniversary of the European Championship in 2020 marked by the finals taking place in cities in 13 different countries across the continent has not met with universal acclaim.
For the SFA, however, it is an outstanding opportunity which they are determined to seize. Hampden will be in the running for a package of four matches at the 24-team finals – three group games and a last-16 tie. There could be as many as 28 other bids lodged with Uefa by today’s deadline.
Some bids – including those from England and Wales – are seeking to host the semi-finals and final of the tournament. Others, with stadia of a similar capacity to Hampden’s 52,000, are eligible only to bid for packages of games up to the second round. They include the Irish bid for the 51,700-capacity Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
With the group stages of Euro 2020 likely to be divided into geographical zones across the 13 host cities chosen by the Uefa Executive Committee in September this year, SFA chief executive Stewart Regan expects at least one of the bids from the British Isles to fail.
“There is potentially an almost one in two chance of our bid being successful,” said Regan. “However, with four cities from the UK and Ireland zone bidding, it is highly unlikely that four of the 13 successful cities will be in the UK and Ireland.
“It would actually help us if England gets the package for the semi-finals and final. It would mean England would have to be in a geographical zone which would support one or more stadiums. You would expect two, possibly three of the bids from UK and Ireland to succeed but not all four. So someone’s not going to be successful.”
It will cost £9 million for Hampden to be a host city. The Scottish Government have committed to paying £3.5m, while the SFA would contribute the £3.3m hosting fee they would receive from Uefa. Glasgow City Council would pay £2m, with Event Scotland providing the remaining £200,000.
Regan said it was impossible to quantify the financial benefit to the local economy of being a host city but anticipated it would be “significantly more” than the £15m brought in by the last major event at Hampden, the 2007 Uefa Cup final.
By Regan’s own admission, Hampden does not boast the same high specifications as its more modern counterparts in London, Cardiff and Dublin. But he is confident that will not prove a major handicap in a process which could ultimately lead to 2020 being a seminal year for the iconic Mount Florida venue and its future development.
“We have basically gone in with our track record of staging major events,” said Regan. “Not just football, but Olympics, Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup. We have backing from the government and city council and a team at Hampden which can put on major events.
“On the downside, we do have the oldest stadium of the four bidding from the UK and Ireland in terms of infrastructure. We have the smallest capacity, but it doesn’t breach any of the capacity rules and it would be up to us to actually make sure that we deliver a successful outcome if we were to be one of the winners.
“Let’s be realistic. We haven’t got the money as an association to build a new stadium. Look at what has happened in other countries – the length of time it took to deliver Wembley for example.
“There are the issues which the Irish have had with the Aviva Stadium and the financial burdens it entailed. We have got ourselves into a reasonable state financially and the last thing we need is to put another millstone around the Scottish FA’s neck.
“What we have got is a very famous stadium with a long history and heritage. It has 52,000 seats, which isn’t at the top end of the profile, but it is good enough to put us in the running for events like this.
“There are improvements required and we have benefited from having Olympic football here in 2012 and the Commonwealth Games this summer. The North Stand has been developed and we have upgraded to be compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act. If we were successful, there will be other legacy benefits.
“We need to focus on what we’ve got and make Hampden as fitting as possible to deliver the most successful matches we possibly can.
“Our current lease of Hampden runs out in 2020 and we have an option to extend it for another 20 years. Queen’s Park are the freehold owners of the site and the deal was done 14 years ago in partnership with the City Council, Government and Scottish FA. As a board, we need to review that for 2020 and the decision here will be important in terms of what happens next to Hampden.”
Back in 2002, when Uefa met to consider the bids to stage the finals of Euro 2008, the Scottish-Irish offering was eliminated in the first round of voting and deemed unfit for purpose.
This time around, Regan is adamant that no stone has been left unturned to make sure Hampden’s 2020 bid avoids a similar fate.
“I wasn’t here at the time of the Euro 2008 bid so I cannot comment on that,” he said. “But all I can say is that the way this bid has been put together has been first class. Everybody involved has stood up to the challenge.
“It’s been led by the Scottish FA’s Andy Niven, who has experience as a match manager and venue director for Uefa. I don’t think we could have done any more to get the bid ready in time for the deadline.”