Desmond Kane

How FIFA voting affects Scotland’s Euro prospects

Desmond Kane

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The higher the hopes, the harder it hurts. Following England's spectacular failure to land the 2018 World Cup finals, images of Scotland and Ireland's doomed efforts to snare Euro 2008 came galloping back into mind.

Scotland and Ireland travelled to Switzerland eight years ago in high hope of returning with the keys to the door. Like England, there was complete disbelief as they went out as quickly as the Scotland national team at a World Cup finals.

Switzerland and Austria won the vote, Hungary were second and Greece and Turkey third. Scotland and Ireland went out in the first round of voting. The game was up for England long before Sepp Blatter pulled the name of Russia out of an envelope somewhere in Zurich last week.

It seems utterly bewildering that England were overlooked to host the 2018 tournaments but as Scotland and Ireland found out, it was certainly naive of England to think that the best bid wins. That is tantamount to saying the best candidate at an interview always gets the job, which is never true.

Not being particularly fond of the monarchy or the Tories, the wounded and wincing looks of the excellent Prince William, David Beckham and Prime Minister David Cameron left a mist of depression washing over me.

As a Scotsman, there were a few of my compatriots who no doubt revelled in England's failure to bring home the bacon, but a World Cup in England would have been of immeasurable benefit to Scotland in terms of tourism and jobs.

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Future bidding countries should know what they are letting themselves in for.

Les Murray, a member of the FIFA ethics committee, said that there was a lot more to come from the decision to award the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

"FIFA is in big trouble," said Murray. "Qatar had the weakest technical reports of all the bidding nations for 2022 and still won the vote 14-8."

What legacy will FIFA leave by hosting the World Cup in Qatar? Nothing. Apart from sunburn, sunstroke, heat exhaustion or something potentially more serious when folk try to shuffle around in stupefying heat that regularly reaches 50 degrees Celsius. That is before one considers the players and coaches. This is a place where it burns during the day before heating up at night.

The locals in those parts retreat to Europe during the summer, because they can't stand the heat, while Europe's top football players will go in the opposite direction. Crazy, crazy stuff.

Already there are murmurings from Franz Beckenbauer suggesting the tournament be switched to January. They have made their bed. Unfortunately, the fans who make it there will have to go and lie in it.

"Qatar is a nice country, but there is no way football can be played in June and July there. No player will ever want to play in these conditions," commented the Asian Football Confederation's general secretary Peter Velappan.

"I would strongly recommend that FIFA reschedule the tournament to January, February. FIFA is obliged to do everything possible to provide the best for the teams and the football fans." The problem is, they are not.

Qatar will surely have to undergo a cultural sea change if they want to host a World Cup worthy of the name. Apart from the heat, they do not take kindly to alcohol consumption (in public, at least), women (in public) or gay men.

Athletes playing in air-conditioned stadia, and preparing in similar training facilities seems desperately unhealthy. This could yet spark a major tension between the club and international game. If you are Barcelona, would you want a David Villa subjected to such conditions after an arduous club campaign?

There is little doubt that if FIFA can deem Qatar, a city state with little or no tradition in the game, lack of accommodation, transport and only one stadium in place, fit for purpose, Scotland would be ripe to stage the European Championships. The debate over the size of the country is no longer relevant after what went on last week.

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Scotland are ideally placed to renew their interest in hosting the European Championships because they can provide evidence of their ability to stage a major sports event with the Commonwealth Games coming to Glasgow and the Ryder Cup bound for Gleneagles in 2014.

Several issues conspired against Scotland the last time they pursued the European Championship. The Irish part of the bid was a major stumbling block with doubts over the use of Croke Park and the lack of an alternative stadium to Lansdowne Road, problems that have since been resolved across the water.

"The media put us under scrutiny, and that's quite right, but the media in other countries do things differently, in terms of support for national projects. The Euro 2008 bid has all-party support and backing from wide sections of the community - do I see that reflected in our media?" said David Taylor, the then chief executive of the Scottish Football Association.

Taylor is now the General Secretary of UEFA, working closely with the UEFA president Michel Platini. Scotland would crucially appear to have influence in areas that are needed to win votes.

With France hosting 24 teams at Euro 2016, Dublin's Croke Park and the new Aviva Stadium with the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff could form a potential Celtic bid for the European tournament when you think that Hampden Park, Murrayfield, Celtic Park and Ibrox are already in place; but Scotland would be a unique choice with a solo bid when one studies Qatar's success. 

To win a World Cup or a European Championship, you do not have to convince the world, just a select band of men.

In terms of legacy, Scotland could do with the positivity of hosting a tournament. Obesity, crime rate and unemployment are problems that could be helped by exposure to such an event as is the need to address falling attendances at domestic football matches, but do they have the stomach for it after the way England were treated?

Mike Lee, the English PR man who worked on Qatar's successful bid, rated Scotland and Ireland's bid with some value when he worked for UEFA a decade ago.

"Scotland should have ambitions to stage major events," said Lee. "The 2014 (Commonwealth) Games will be important to show what can be delivered."

Scotland may decide not to bid, or UEFA may well be hellbent on following FIFA's example and opt for another emerging market - the rules which already govern Formula One, tennis and golf. 

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