One from 10 years ago today, when Scotland was considering a bid to host Euro 2008. We didn’t seem to be particularly good at the organisational side of football, but then who is? As the world of football officialdom goes into meltdown it’s worth another read.
I KNOW women and football are thought to be mutually exclusive, but as Scotland’s first female football writer – and the daughter of a well-known Scottish former newspaper sports editor – I do have a genuine interest in our country’s favourite game. I even play it sometimes, albeit rather pathetically, but I can still score a penalty (does it count if it’s against a seven-year-old?).
It was an interesting journalistic phase I went through, covering a premier division match every Saturday for a Sunday tabloid. I joined at the same time as Billy McNeil and we were initiated into our first game – Kilmarnock v Rangers – together. I don’t know who was the more nervous.
Billy obviously had more staying power than me, and certainly more credibility with the fans (half of them, anyway). I lasted just two seasons before the blame for St Mirren’s relegation to the First Division was landed at my feet – probably the most accurate pass they had made in years.
The abuse at Airdrie was shocking. The press box then was in the middle of the stand and the Airdrie fans, who had a Neanderthal approach to women at the best of times, just couldn’t accept that I was writing about their beloved team. They managed to lift their knuckles from the floor as they made frantic welcoming (!) gestures each time I took my seat.
And at Tannadice, the Dundee United fanzine mocked my coverage regularly, convincing me absolutely that the only good thing to come out of Tannadice was the pies.
So I resigned and moved onto more challenging journalistic endeavours. But despite those traumatic two seasons, I still have a love of the game. I regularly watch the big games on telly with my dad and my four-year-old daughter, whose understanding of the offside rule is better than most referees, and her grasp of the technical terms in footballing vocabulary is quite extensive. Fortunately, she doesn’t share this newfound knowledge with her little nursery friends – yet.
So the dream of hosting Euro 2008 is one I share. What better hosts to the world’s footballers and fans, than the world’s most loyal and friendly fans? The economic boost – somewhere in the region of £330 million – and the impact on tourism would be phenomenal.
But while we have a passion for watching the game and supporting our favourite teams, we have a clear lack of ability in developing football as a successful and profitable business. Equally disappointing is our drastic lack of focus on and investment in our young players.
Our football clubs can’t balance their books. (Just look at the Celtic management’s lack of faith in their team’s ability to win the treble, which resulted in £4m of bonuses to be paid out to players – money which will now have to come from the new player budget because the accountants didn’t accrue the bonus cash.) And the SFA can’t even manage a little building project on the south side of Glasgow.
So why on earth should we believe that we, as a country, could organise the games and generate a profit at the end?
Consider how much it would cost to host the tournament. Not just the new build or upgrading of two Scottish stadiums to meet the requirement of six stadiums capable of holding 30,000 or more fans. I understand this has been costed at around £40million of public money.
But there are the policing and security arrangements. Significant developments would have to be made to Scotland’s transport network (I would argue that in business interests we should be doing this anyway, but there you go). Our tourism industry will need to get its act together now in order to be ready for 2008 – you never know, they might surprise us and actually achieve that goal. Then there are all the advertising costs, administration costs, and the usual committee of highly paid worthies to ensure that there wouldn’t be a repeat of the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games financial fiasco.
I would love to see Euro 2008 come to Scotland, but I have to say the Scotswoman in me doubts it will happen. I hate to be wrong. Who doesn’t? But this is one occasion I would actually relish.
So despite the challenges, the dream is still alive, and who’s to say we can’t make it a reality? What a goal!