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Scotland and Ireland set for joint Euro 2008 bid

© Reuters 2002

By Trevor Huggins

LONDON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Scotland and Ireland are to work on a joint bid to host the European championship in 2008, government and football officials announced on Wednesday.

Support for the bid was announced to the Scottish Parliament by First Minister Jack McConnell, after a meeting in Edinburgh with Scottish Football Association (SFA) chief executive David Taylor.

McConnell said Scotland had ruled out hosting the event alone due to UEFA requirements over the stadia, but said a joint bid with Ireland could be "successful and viable."

"We wish to support a joint bid from the SFA and the Football Association of Ireland," McConnell told MSPs. "We shouldn't be over-confident, but I believe that, if we do this right and unite behind the bid, then we can win." The offer to join Scotland was formally accepted by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) in Dublin on Wednesday.

FAI general secretary Brendan Menton said in a statement: "In discussions with the SFA, we concluded that a joint bid by the two associations would have a lot of credibility in European football...If we succeed with our joint bid, Euro 2008 will be a great success, given the enthusiasm for sport in both nations."

McConnell said Scotland's decision to seek help followed a UEFA announcement in November that eight, and not six 30,000-seater stadia would be needed by candidates to host the event.

"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," he said. "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."

As for the eight needed, Taylor told the SFA's website that six of the stadia would be in Scotland and two in Ireland.

"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. "I am convinced that a joint bid can be a winnable position if we are able to present a varied and innovative bid," Taylor said.

McConnell said the two sides would spend the next few weeks working out details, and would be in a position by February 28 to tell UEFA whether or not their joint bid would proceed. Ireland's contribution would be their existing venue at Lansdowne Road, plus a new national stadium to be built at Abbotstown in west Dublin.

Menton said: "The SFA already have four stadia with capacity in excess of 60,000 and we believe the new National Stadium would be a major factor in bringing part of the tournament to Ireland."

After the Netherlands and Belgium jointly staged Euro 2000, the next European championships will be held in Portugal in 2004. This year's World Cup is being co-hosted for the first time by South Korea and Japan.

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