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Something to say
Still all to play for
By Roddy Thomson

Dubliners have actually proposed synchronising time zones with the Southern Hemisphere in June, as World Cup fever among the massed ranks that watched Ireland dismantle Denmark, exploded in the Easter sunshine.
At the run-down Lansdowne Road, the 42,000 crowd was more than turned out to watch England lose to Italy. Only world champions France could make the packed Dublin attendance look small ... thanks in no small measure to the Tartan Army.

At the Football Association of Ireland HQ in the city's Merrion Square, the finer points of squad balance were obviously the hot topic with World Cup paraphernalia, and not a single Euro 2008 logo, adorning the walls of

its reception. These logos are a week or two away from selection, of course, but stacking up attendance numbers is also important to the chances of success for Scotland and Ireland's bid, which will be formally launched before UEFA chiefs in Stockholm on April 25.

Come the UEFA Congress, the Celtic Nations bid team hope that an attendance numbers racket can help propel them into a front-running position in the marathon race to land the European Championships - and the free qualifying bonus Scotland needs.

Well-represented among the game's hierarchy, the unified bid team have been subtly advised by UEFA stadium committee chairman, Ernie Walker, to stress the untouchable capacities of the grounds it already boasts ... and a proud record down the years of filling them.

Big is suddenly beautiful again, largely due to European football's governing body showing increasing signs of concern at the prospects for stable TV revenues over the next six years following the collapse of ITV-Digital and lower Champions League audiences.

The timetable of obstacles to the bid - the Gaelic Athletics Association vote on opening up Croke Park to foreign sports on April 13, the Irish General Election, probably on May 9 - still loom large, but a change has occurred in the demeanour of its proponents.

The project manager for Ireland, Diarmaid Addison-Smyth, is still attached to Andersen Consulting, and likens his task, ensuring compliance with UEFA's 200-page bidding guidelines document before the flight to Sweden, to 'cramming' for university finals.

But regardless of burning midnight oil to achieve that objective for all three of the Dublin stadia possibilities the Irish will present - backed by Sir Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane or Jack Charlton - Addison-Smyth still grins each time he reads the key word 'capacity'.

Given that Ireland only secured a political commitment to back the bid on the last day of February, and FAI chief executive, Brendan Menton, admits he 'wishes there wasn't a General Election' clouding the horizons, the surging confidence of the steering group is curious.

However, appealing to UEFA's taste for the grandiose - the unique selling point offered by a series of 'gladiatorial' arenas unmatched among its rivals - is far from daft, and the keyholder to the bid's fortunes gleefully points out that Scots-Irish odds are fast shortening.

Menton's mobile carries the ringtone of executive choice, the theme from Mission Impossible. But if easy parallels are there to be drawn, given continuing hostility to the bid within Scotland, his declaration that the Central Belt is 'this bid's winning strength' is no fantasy.

Bertie Ahern's Government has put almost £400,000 worth of money where the Taoiseach's mouth is, to add to Scottish Executive and UK Sport funding for the bidding process, and there seems little doubt the Irish Premier will deliver - if he stays in power.

Menton said: 'I'm not denying there are problems to be solved and I wish there wasn't a General Election here, because it has slowed the decisionmaking process, though I've no doubt a Stadium Ireland will be built, if Bertie Ahern is returned.

'But whichever way the requirement is finally met, in UEFA's eyes, higher-capacity stadia means better commercial revenue.'

Ahern has promised the GAA sweeteners if a yes vote is returned, and threatened the withholding of funds if it is again defeated. Menton, though, points out that every bidder is going to Stockholm, where the horse-trading begins in earnest, with multiple choices.

He added: 'What we have is a compelling commercial case as well as a strong, built-in football legacy through improved training facilities for youth - in anyone's language, the two most important criteria for UEFA. We are now in a position to win this race.'

senor, un pollo porvavour

Total Posts: 89 | Joined Feb. 2002 | Posted on: 10:31 pm on April 3, 2002 | IP

Fresh ideas
emmmmmmm, ok then.


SCOTLAND FOREVER!boabbyshaft@hotmail.com

Total Posts: 36 | Joined April 2002 | Posted on: 12:23 pm on April 24, 2002 | IP

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