Scottish FA chief executive Stewart Regan returned from Croatia yesterday with renewed optimism about the chances of Hampden Park hosting games in the continent-wide European Championship finals of 2020.
Glasgow will go up against 31 other cities in a 12-month battle for 13 host packages after being nominated by the SFA yesterday at a Uefa meeting in Dubrovnik. And, only days after delivering a downcast verdict on Hampden’s chances of meeting Uefa’s tournament requirements, Regan appeared to have a spring in his step yesterday.
While it seems unlikely that more than one or two of the four Home Nations that have lodged bids – Scotland, England, Wales and the Republic of Ireland – could be successful given the expanded frontiers of the European game, Regan commented that the proximity of neighbouring countries could be seen as an advantage.
An SFA spokesman also indicated that Uefa might soften their rigid demand for 80 hospitality boxes at all hosting stadia; Hampden only has 26. Earlier in the week, that shortcoming was flagged up by Regan as the main reason the 2020 finals looked likely to bypass the city where international football was born.
“Hampden has a proud place in the history of the game going back to the legendary European Cup final between Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960, and more recently hosting two memorable finals between Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League final in 2002 and the all-Spanish UEFA Cup final between Sevilla and Espanyol,” said Regan.
“I am aware that 32 members have also expressed an interest, including ourselves, England, Wales and the Republic of Ireland. I believe we have a great opportunity, especially if Great Britain and Ireland could become a hub, which would ensure ease of planning and travelling for supporters.
“We will now continue our discussions with the relevant parties but it would be fitting if Scotland can not only take part in the tournament but be a host city in what would be the culmination of our strategic plan, Scotland United: A 2020 Vision.”
If successful, Glasgow will host three group matches and one knockout game, either in the last 16 or the quarter-finals.
UEFA president Michel Platini’s unprecedented gesture of throwing the 2020 finals open to the whole of Europe has led to countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Macedonia, Israel and Kazakhstan applying for a piece of the action.
All of European football’s strongholds have also expressed an interest, with FA general secretary Alex Horne pushing Wembley’s credentials for the semi-finals and final package yesterday, despite Platini making an apparent promise to Turkey that Istanbul would receive that honour if the city was not hosting the Olympics that year. The 2020 Games will be in Tokyo.