Summary: Scotland and Ireland were both confident their bid could be a winner. So where did it all go wrong?
The news that Scotland and the Republic of Ireland failed in their bid to host the UEFA Euro Championship of 2008 came to a massive shock, not least to those involved with the effort.
Going into the final selection round, the Celtic nations’ effort had been rated as the second-favourite, behind the eventual winners of Austria and Switzerland.
That the bid not only failed to win but came a distant fourth out of seven overall was a huge disappointment to all involved, with even the fact that Scotland-Ireland came ahead of a strong bid from the Nordic countries failing to lift the spirits.
Almost as soon as the results of the bidding process were confirmed, the inquest began. Where had the bid for Euro 2008 gone wrong?
Recent history doomed the bid
For starters, history was not on the side of the Celts. Even before their bid was officially launched it was pointed out that the UK as a whole had hosted the European Championships in 1996. While this tournament was widely-regarded as a huge success and proof that the country could indeed play host to an event of this size and prestige, it was almost-certainly too recent, with even the-then head of the Scottish Football Association (SFA) David Taylor conceding that UEFA are always determined to ensure the tournament is moved around the continent.
Speaking at the time he said: “Previous tournaments had been around the west of Europe and eastern Europe is developing fast. I think there was a feeling that ‘maybe we should take the tournament in this geographical direction’.”
At the same time, it was also argued that the one tournament had held just prior to submitting its bid for Euro 2008 was the Rugby World Cup. Despite the fact Scotland is a nation of rugby-lovers, attendance levels for this tournament were low, something the UEFA committee surely considered when considering their options.
But even if Euro 1996 had been held elsewhere, and even if the Rugby World Cup had been played in front of sell-out crowds when it was held in Scotland, other factors were stacked against the Celtic bid.
Lack of possible host cities also a problem
Arguably above all, the one thing missing from Scotland-Ireland’s bid was a shortage of potential host cities. For instance, while Austria-Switzerland put forward eight different host cities in their successful bid, the Celtic countries struggled to match this. One major drawback was the fact that three of the prospective host grounds were located in Glasgow, a fact that reportedly led UEFA officials to question whether one city could cope with so much.
Added to this was the ongoing uncertainty over where games would be held in Dublin. The bid was dealt a huge (and, according to some, a fatal) blow when the Gaelic Games Association (GAA) announced it would not let Croke Park be used for the European football championships.
In a stroke this removed an 80,000-seater stadium from the bid and, when the Irish Rugby Football Union also said it would only let its football equivalent use Lansdowne Road if it got a brand new stadium of its own, doubts over whether the Irish capital could host one of the world’s biggest sporting events grew exponentially.
Shortage of political unity behind the bid?
Given that, despite drawn-out debates within the Irish Parliament, no firm decision could be made on where a new stadium would be built (and, just as importantly, how it would be paid for), UEFA suits reportedly came to the conclusion that the coalition government was not fully behind the bid.
In short then, well before the UEFA committee sat down to make its final decision, questions had been raised about the level of political will on one side of the Irish Sea, while doubts surrounded whether one city could really be used for three host stadium. Since the Austria-Switzerland bid did not have such doubts surrounding it, such Celtic optimism was surely misplaced.