Legend says the Giants causeway was built between Ireland and Scotland so two warriors could fight one another after the Scot hurled insults in this direction. In 2008, the barbs kept coming when Ireland seemingly scuppered the chance to co-host the European Championships with our Celtic neighbour. We could do worse than rebuild those bridges now as we might just succeed this time around…if Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini allow it.
This came right out of left-field. Reports began to emerge on Tuesday that Ireland could resurrect a bid to host the European Championships. With the deadline for expressing interest expiring at midnight, Scotland and Wales were making noises that Ireland might join them in a three-way Celtic bid and suddenly it was confirmed.
Turkey were the only name in the hat but if Istanbul is granted the 2020 Olympics, they would be ruled out leaving our bid as the last one standing. Then it transpired Georgia had also tabled an interest. Yet the recent turmoil in that country coupled with the major flaws that currently dog Ukraine’s role as co-hosts of this year’s tournament, could prove decisive.
UEFA may decide to go with the safe option. We didn’t even know the FAI were considering it and now Ireland has a real crack at co-hosting the European Championships.
We’ve been here before of course; the doomed quest to stage the 2008 tournament. The consensus the last time round was that Scotland were kicking themselves for asking the Irish. However, like England’s quest to host the World Cups in 2018 and 2022, our proposal was not without its conspiracies.
England’s bid was widely regarded as possessing the best technical plan with the stadia already in place. The FA’s standing with Sepp Blatter has always been on shaky ground and the decision to award the tournaments to Russia and Qatar came with a wave of recriminations. Similar ructions emerged regarding Ireland’s bid with Scotland.
The 1998 FIFA election that first saw Blatter become president was dogged by allegations of pay-offs and political favours. David Will, the then Scottish vice president and lawyer, was quoted some days after the decision in Paris as saying the suspicion of corruption would always overshadow the election.
Either way, we went out in the first round and the tournament went to who? Austria and homeland of Mr. Blatter, Switzerland.
The joke was that UEFA officials were given a whirlwind tour of Dublin that took in no stadiums. UEFA were blown away by their tour of Croke Park, only to be told soccer was not allowed. The delegation were then brought across the city to Ballsbridge to see a ramshackle Landsdowne Road that was falling apart but were assured it would be redeveloped.
The fiasco of the collapse of the then government’s plan to build a 65,000 all-seater stadium on Dublin’s western outskirts did untold damage to the original Celtic bid.
Despite our hotels, modern infrastructure and assurances that it would be the greatest fans’ tournament in history with the Scots and Irish as hosts, it failed to stop the judging panel eliminating our bid in the first round.
The Scottish may blame us for the failure, but the defects of the 2008 bid are no longer an issue. Lansdowne Road has been rebuilt and Croke Park has since been opened to international soccer. The GAA’s mecca may not even be required if they didn’t feel they could accommodate such a tournament, both politically and practically.
The outcry about the potential cost at a time when the country is on it knees economically is valid. But no more so than the current momentum-gaining case to host the rugby World Cup.
The economist David McWilliams has argued that staging such an event would result in a significant psychological shift for the nation and send out a message globally that we still have ambition. We are, after all, talking about something years away.
The backlash has already begun, that it’s a waste of money, with the usual pot-shots at the FAI including obligatory references to piss-ups and breweries.
Yet the waters have already been tested by the reaction, or lack thereof, to a potential rugby bid.
Of course, the question is would the Irish government commit valuable funds to two huge sporting events in the space of three years and would the Irish people look favourably on it?
Politics did for us before both at home and in football’s ruling circles. Platini is getting his Euros for France in four years. Blatter owes us one.