The UK is planning a potential four-nation rescue plan for the 2026 Commonwealth Games, The Herald on Sunday can reveal.

A “highly confidential” document produced by UK Sport, the UK government agency responsible for international sporting events, obtained by this paper, outlines “a potential revised hosting model” which would likely see different events held in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

READ MORE: Yousaf: Scotland could host 2026 Commonwealth Games with other countries

The next games were due to be held in Victoria in Australia, but the state unexpectedly withdrew in July after costs hit £3.13bn, far more than the £1.4bn they had expected to spend. 

The shock move has sparked chaos inside the Commonwealth Games Federation, the body responsible for the multi-sport event. 

They are due to discuss the next steps forward when they meet in Singapore next month at their general assembly. 

Some athletes have expressed fears that if the Games do not go ahead in 2026, they might struggle to recover.

There are currently no bids to host the 2030 Games. 

The Canadian province of Alberta was expected to bid, but the government withdrew support in August, again citing fears over the cost. 

The Games are the only major multi-sport events where Scottish athletes compete for Scotland.

One of the most memorable moments during the last Games in Birmingham in 2022 was when Eilish McColgan won the 10,000m with a  dramatic kick in the last 200m.

READ MORE: Former Glasgow Lord Provost Michael Kelly reveals city plan

At the time of Victoria’s surprise exit, Humza Yousaf suggested Scotland, who last hosted the event in Glasgow in 2014, could step in and hold the Games, though he subsequently cooled on that, saying it could be "financially challenging." 

The Scottish Government said they were prepared to explore the possibility of “a multi-city, multi-partner hosting opportunity.”

The Herald: Glasgow has recorded a 13.7 per cent rise in council owned gym memberships since 2014 Photograph: Kirsty Anderson

Downing Street was even less enthusiastic, saying talk of a UK bid would be “getting slightly ahead of ourselves” and that Australia should be given a chance to find a “viable solution” to save the Games. 

Correspondence released to the Herald on Sunday through Freedom of Information shows that with no “viable solution” presenting itself, in August UK Sport organised a crunch meeting with officials from the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government, and the Department for Culture Media and Sport. 

Officials in Northern Ireland were also made aware of the discussions. Currently, there is no functioning executive in Stormont because of the DUP's protest against post-Brexit trade arrangements.

While much of the documentation released to us is heavily redacted, a UK Sport paper shared between the civil servants makes clear that they were working on “a proposal that could potentially deliver a Commonwealth Games”

This paper - described as “ an initial desk top exercise” - raises “several questions and highlights areas that require further investigation, and these should be considered in full before any decisions are made.”

The email makes clear that this “does not infer that any offer would be made or that any funding has been made available to do so.”

“It would still be for all partners to explore in a robust way whether it is in the interests of the UK, both societally and aligned to wider hosting aspirations, whether this would be worth pursuing.

“The broad conditions where that course of action might be considered feasible and/or desirable are outlined here, but not explored in full.” 

They note that the costs of hosting the Games “are significant” but that the final price “would be dependent on the requirements that were agreed and any associated legacy plans attached to hosting”.

Other correspondence released to us through Freedom of Information, shows officials in Scotland are nervous about a possible bid. 

Rachael Mckechnie  Deputy Director, of Major Events and Themed Years at the Scottish Government, told colleagues: “There are significant financial implications here against the backdrop of extremely stretched budgets.” 

Another email points out that the “very short timeframe in which to deliver the event… will increase costs. “

It adds: “The inflationary pressures on many aspects of major event delivery remain strong
so a significant degree of contingency and optimism bias would need to be
built into any business case.”

READ MORE:  2026 Commonwealth Games: Could Scotland realistically host Games?

Former Olympian, and Herald journalist Susan Egelstaff, said she feared for the future of the Games if the 2026 event was unable to go ahead.

The Herald: The best home crowd Susan Egelstaff played in front of was at the London Olympics in 2012   Photograph: Getty

Ms Egelstaff, who won bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002 and Melbourne in 2006, added: 

“I honestly can't overstate how big a deal cancelling it would be. For the really big-name athletes like Duncan Scott and Katie Archibald, this is basically the one time every four years they get to compete for Scotland. 

“And then there's the next level down, for so many Scottish athletes, this is their major goal, because if you're not going to reach Olympic level, then the Commonwealth Games is definitely the next biggest thing.

“It's a huge thing for really for sports like mine, like badminton, squash and these kind of smaller sports. 

“Netball is not in the Olympics so for Scotland's netballers this is pretty much the biggest thing they've got and it's certainly the only multi-sport event.”

Professor Gayle McPherson, the Director of the Centre for Culture, Sport and Events at the University of West Scotland said UK bid would effectively be Plan C. 

“Plan B would have been for another country to come forward. But realistically, with less than three years to go now, it would have to be a UK bid that took over."

"If you look at what Victoria was trying to do, they took over a bid but then proposed to add more sports. They wanted it to go out to more communities, and build more venues.

"So the costs escalated. They were warned against doing that and they ignored all that advice.

"We have the facilities, there will be no building costs here."

Prof McPherson said there would be benefits from hosting the Games. 

"People talk about legacy, but they want you to give an instant answer to that. If you're able to look at where we are now [following the 2014 Games], we've had the M74 extended, we've had infrastructure benefits in cities up and down the country.

"We've had investment in parasport, quite substantially."

The academic also pointed to the fact that Glasgow had held a number of major events in the years since, including the European Championships, and the UCI cycling world championships."

The games could still be held in Australia. Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate has expressed an interest in holding a "streamlined" event.

Gold Coast hosted the 2018 Games and Mr Tate believes he can hold the event for as little as £363m.

However, he’s unlikely to receive support from the Queensland Government, who are already committed to hosting the Olympic Games in Brisbane in 2032. 

Victoria was forced to pay £190m to settle disputes arising from the decision to walk away from 2026.

The Birmingham Games in 2022 cost £778m, while Glasgow’s 2014 event came in £473m.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games received international recognition as an outstanding fortnight of sporting and cultural events.

"The Scottish Government will of course explore if Scotland can support of a multi-city, multi-partner hosting opportunity however the Commonwealth Games Federation will need time to consider next steps, and it would be premature to comment further at this stage.”

UK Sport and Team Scotland were approached for comment.