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Hosting is in the with bricks at Hampden

IT seems that you can judge a bid by its cover.

Gordon Matheson is one of the figures featured on the pamphlet outlining Hampden's bid. Picture: SNS
Gordon Matheson is one of the figures featured on the pamphlet outlining Hampden's bid. Picture: SNS

On the chairs lined up inside the Hampden Museum Hall of Fame yesterday, and scattered across the top table, were copies of an eight-page pamphlet outlining a bid for Hampden to host matches at the European Championships in six years time. The only words on the front of it were "Candidate for Uefa Euro 2020 Glasgow" but it was the graphic that did most to encapsulate and sell the proposal.

Under tiny images of the city's landmarks there was a shot of the vintage 1960 Real Madrid team cavorting with the European Cup it won at Hampden. There, too, was Zinedine Zidane gripping the same cup, won in the same stadium, in 2002. An action shot of Kenny Dalglish and Sir Alex Ferguson's face above them all. The message? "Bring Euro 2020 to Hampden, this has been a home to greatness".

At one point 32 cities had posted interest in being one of the 13 venues for the 2020 European Championships, which is being staged in an entirely different way as a one-off celebration of the tournament's 60th anniversary. But the numbers have dipped ahead of today's deadline for the formal submission of bids. Cities in Poland, Czech Republic, Portugal and Finland have all lost enthusiasm, largely as a result of the £9m financial commitment which must be shouldered largely by national and municipal governments. Only around 25 or 26 cities are thought to be still in the running, which gives Glasgow a one-in-two chance.

Glasgow and Dublin are thought to be the frontrunners to host group games and a last-16 tie, although Cardiff is also bidding. Wembley is a strong candidate to host the final and semi-finals.

The bid will stand or fall on Hampden's suitability, although there are broader issues at play such as Scotland's status in European football and the belief, at least around this country, that Glasgow's powerful football history and continued high attendances should be periodically rewarded by bringing major events to the city. Hampden was selected for Zidane's final in 2002, the Uefa Cup final between Espanyol and Seville five years later, and matches at the 2012 Olympic Games.

"We've gone in basically with our track record at staging major events," said Stewart Regan, the SFA chief executive. "Not just football but Olympics, Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, and having backing from the government and the city council and EventScotland, support from Hampden Park, a team that can put on major events and has done so in the past. On the downside we have the oldest stadium of the four [bidders from the British isles] in terms of infrastructure. We have the smallest capacity. But it doesn't breach any of the capacity rules and it would be up to us to actually make sure that we deliver a successful outcome if we were to be one of the winners.

"If you look across Europe, most of the major cities and countries have staged some kind of major event in recent times. Whether it's a Champions League or Europa League or an international finals. There have been combinations with Poland and Ukraine, Holland and Belgium and Switzerland and Austria. [UEFA president] Michel Platini is keen to be inclusive, but you have to be able to satisfy the infrastructure requirements first."

Hampden falls short on issues such as the number of hospitality boxes, electronic turnstiles and the lack of adequate fast-speed broadband access. "We were given very positive noises from UEFA that what they would expect is a 'work around', i.e. being able to deliver hospitality in a nearby sporting village such as at lesser Hampden.

"We fall into the middle ground, I guess. We haven't got all the bells and whistles as far as the infrastructure is concerned but we have time to put that right. What we have got is a track record at staging major events, three [international] airports which not a lot of countries can demonstrate. We have a motorway network which gives accessibility to other parts of the UK with a good rail network and quality hotels around Glasgow. We also have reasons why people would want to come to Scotland like golf, tourism, the landscape, the Highlands."

There always must be a justification for spending public money, but no controversy can be attached to bidding for Euro 2020. The cost of preparing and submitting the bid is only around £60,000. The cost of winning would be £9m, in terms of the cost of delivering host status, but that money would be far more than doubled.

There would be other benefits of a successful bid. "It's important that football is showcased on a global level," said Regan. "We talked about the performance school kids playing for Scotland in the national stadium at a major tournament. That will have a major impact on getting kids to play football. It's a bit like when you watch Wimbledon everyone is playing tennis or when the Ashes is on and kids play cricket.

"What does 'legacy' mean to us? It means as many kids as possible following football and the fortunes of Scotland. The longer term legacy would be stadium infrastructure improvements and interest in the game of football. When the team is successful, we want to keep Scotland at the top of people's minds."

Ferguson, Dalglish and Zidane were pictured on the front of the pamphlet and SFA president Campbell Ogilvie, First Minister Alex Salmond and Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson on the back. They are an unlikely half-dozen, but in September, when the Uefa Executive Committee decides, they will know if they amount to a winning team.

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