What lessons did Ireland and Scotland learn from their failed Euro 2008 bid?

Summary: Even if Scotland and Ireland failed to win Euro 2008, the bidding experience was not completely in vain.

Failing to win the race to host Euro 2008 was a big blow for both the Scottish and Irish Football Associations, as well as for both countries’ economies. Winning the bidding competition would have brought hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Celtic nations, with fans spending millions of pounds on transport, accommodation and hospitality.

The news that Austria and Switzerland were successful in their bid, then, came as a big shock on both sides of the Irish Sea. However, once the dust had settled, everyone from government ministers and football industry chiefs through to members of both the press and the public were determined to learn lessons from the whole experience.

After all, as Irish premier Bertie Ahern was quoted as saying at the time, “it is better to try and fail and learn from your failure that to not try at all”.

Perhaps above all, the experience gave both Ireland and Scotland a valuable insight into how the bidding process for major international sporting events works. While it was certainly an expensive lesson, with marketing campaigns alone costing millions of pounds, it nevertheless has been taken on board over subsequent years, not least when making other bids.

The advantages of going it alone

Just a few weeks after it was confirmed that Austria-Switzerland would be the hosts for Euro 2008, the Scotsman reported that a leading figure within UK Sport felt that Scotland would have had a better chance of winning if it had gone it alone rather than teamed up with its Celtic neighbours for a joint effort.

Indeed, if there’s one thing that both nations took from the bidding experience it’s that, while the Irish Sea may only be a few miles across, it’s nevertheless regarded as a major obstacle to be overcome when organising major sporting events. So, while Scotland could certainly try again with another joint bid, it would have more success teaming up with England, while Ireland would similarly be wise to launch a joint bid with their neighbours Northern Ireland.

Being realistic with promises

One other lesson that Scotland in particular took away from the whole Euro 2008 experience was not to get too carried away with promises of big, new stadiums.

Under the terms of the initial bid, four new 30,000-seater grounds would have needed to be built especially for the tournament at an estimated cost of £100 million. While a revamped Easter Road in Edinburgh might have made sense, looking back, ideas of building a new mega-ground in Dundee or of constructing a new 35,000-seater home for Aberdeen seem poorly thought-through, not least since UEFA always looks at how likely it is that any new stadiums are needed once a competition has come to an end.

Notably, when going for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Glasgow didn’t build its bid around planned new venues but rather emphasised the facilities that were already in place, with Hampden Park to be used for the opening and closing ceremonies as well as for almost all athletics events.

Looking to the future

On the back of the 2002 defeat, it’s highly unlikely Scotland and Ireland will launch another joint bid for any sporting event any time soon. Instead, both nations will look to learn from the mistakes of the Euro 2008 race and attempt to win events on their own

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