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Scottish football chiefs focus on Glasgow

HOPES of a new bid to host the football European Championships in 2024 have been quashed, despite the feelgood factor surrounding the success of the Commonwealth Games.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) is focused purely on becoming one of the hosts of the Euro 2020 championships and has no plans for a bid or joint bid to become a host four years later.

Uefa is holding Euro 2020 in 13 different countries to mark the 60th anniversary of the tournament, and Glasgow joins Cardiff and Dublin to host early matches along with Bilbao, Rome, Munich, Stockholm, St Petersburg, Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Jerusalem, Sofia, Bucharest, Budapest, Baku, Minsk and Skopje.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has called for Scotland to bid for the 2024 ­European Football Championships, and has been backed by former first minister Henry McLeish.

Fans have also submitted ideas to the SFA about how a joint bid with Ireland in 2024 could succeed. But the Sunday Herald understands that the SFA has no interest in bidding for the 2024 championships, preferring instead to concentrate on tackling issues within the domestic game and to secure a small slice of the Euro 2020 cake.

Some in the SFA believe Germany will be the front-runner for the 2024 championships and feel there is no chance of pulling off a successful bid. Turkey is also competing for the championships, having withdrawn Istanbul as a potential candidate for the Euro 2020 final to target hosting Euro 2024 alone.

It is understood Germany FA chiefs will drop Munich's bid to host the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020 at next month's vote in order not to undermine its campaign to host the tournament four years later. That trade-off would mean England and Wembley's rival bid would be unchallenged.

The SFA is understood to believe that its attempt to host four games in 2020 makes more sense against the prospect of the investment needed to improve road and stadia infrastructure for the whole tournament.

The SFA is also believed to be confident that it can be successful in winning its "standard package" bid to host three group stage matches and one knockout match from either the last 16 or quarter-finals in 2020. Glasgow would be the host city with Hampden the venue.

Ireland's equivalent governing body, the Football Association of Ireland, also ruled out a 2024 joint bid, saying its focus was on 2020. "There is no talk of any other bids outside that," said an FAI spokesman.

But John Henderson, director of the failed bid by Scotland and Ireland to get Euro 2008, believes the nation could still succeed with a joint bid, especially after demonstrating it could successfully host the Commonwealth Games.

He said it was unrealistic to contemplate Scotland going it alone, but that it made much more sense to link with other countries for a joint bid. "I am sure we could get involved in a larger tournament if we linked up with another football association," he said.

Before the Commonwealth Games, Hampden - and Glasgow - could point to their success in hosting the Europa League final of 2007 and the Champions League final of 2002 as examples of how they can stage a showpiece event.

"Now we have the experience of the Commonwealth Games under our belt we can show in terms of the hotel and transport infrastructure, and the security arrangements, that we are well able to put on a big sporting occasion," said Henderson.

"It was well worth bidding in 2008. It wasn't a hopeless bid by any means ... Uefa was very happy that, technically speaking, the bid was strong, almost as strong as the Austria and Switzerland bid which eventually won.

"I have no doubt that with the stadia in Glasgow it puts Scotland in a very strong position to make a bid for a big football tournament."

John Williams, senior sociology lecturer at the University of Leicester who specialises in football governance, says there are obstacles to overcome for Scotland to successfully co-host a European championships.

"Arranging transport in Glasgow even for the 'friendly' games was not always an overwhelming success," he said. "I agree, upgrading stadia outside Glasgow may provide for some problems - the rugby facilities in Edinburgh could certainly do with an upgrade and really radical thinking could yet provide one new shared soccer stadium in Edinburgh.

"I guess the more realistic option is aiming for 2020 and a select number of matches. Given the experience of the Games and what we know about the Glasgow weather, a roof on at least one of the major venues probably has to be considered for future reference and new events."

Some 19 countries are bidding to host games in Euro 2020, most targeting the package of three group-stage matches in the 24-team tournament, plus a single knockout match from the last 16 or quarter-finals rounds.

One of the key criteria for 2020 is stadium size and with Hampden Park holding 52,000 fans it meets the basic requirement.

With the quarter-final requirement being a capacity of 60,000 or more, if Scotland is selected as a standard package host it is thought it would be a venue for group games and a last 16 match at best.

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