The Scottish Football Association is prepared to step in and host the 2012 European Football Championship if UEAF decides to take the tournament away from Ukraine and Poland.European football's governing body is willing to give the co-hosts four to six months to prove that preparations for the tournament have been speeded up. If it is not satisfied, UEFA is ready to invite new bids to host Euro 2012. Work on new stadiums and infrastructure in Poland in Ukraine has fallen behind schedule, and both countries were warned by UEFA last week about the lack of progress so far. It also cited “political instability” in Poland and Ukraine as a cause for concern. Michel Platini, the UEFA president, said the next four to six months will be crucial.
The SFA has expressed an interest in hosting Euro 2016, but chief executive Gordon Smith believes Scotland would also be ready in four years' time. “If Poland and Ukraine pulled out we would put Scotland forward and say we wanted to be considered for it,” Smith told a Sunday newspaper. “In the meantime, we'd speak to the Scottish government and try to get a feasibility study done as to the costs and what's required in terms of stadium upgrades. We've had a lot of encouragement from the government, who've said that if we went for the European Championship they would be very supportive. They would have to be because of the financial work required. We would need to get more stadiums up to specification, at Pittodrie, Dundee and Edinburgh.”
Given that the tournament would be held in the same year at the London Olympics, the SFA would struggle to receive financial support from Westminster but could count on the full support of Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister. Salmond has backed the SFA's plan to bid for Euro 2016, but a feasibility study is unlikely to take place until after UEFA decides later this year whether or not to expand the tournament from 16 to 20 or 24 teams. Hosting an expanded Euro 2016 could be beyond Scotland's means and recourses, which would make Euro 2012 a more attractive and realistic proposition.
UEFA chose the Poland-Ukraine bid to host Euro 2012 over submissions from Italy. Croatia and Hungary also made a joint bid. However, Italy would not automatically be awarded the tournament if Poland and Ukraine fail to comply with UEFA's demands.
In the meantime, UEFA has pledged to do everything it can to support Poland and Ukraine in their attempts get their preparations on track. David Taylor, the UEFA chief executive and former chief executive of the SFA, said: “There has been some progress, but it needs to be accelerated. Over the next six months we need to see major steps forward, and there will be close monitoring by UEFA in that period of time.”
The president of the Ukrainian FA, Hryhory Surkis, stressed that important decisions need to be made quickly to put the event's timetable back on course. “It is true that we have lost nine months and everyone knows why: Our authorities have proved slow-moving amid all the circumstances,” said Surkis. “But the time-out is over. There can be no more excuses. Let this be clear to everyone, Ukraine has been given an historic chance. Not a single month, day or hour should now be wasted. In the next few weeks, I hope the preparations process will be corrected and everything brought on stream at full capacity.”
Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk plans to meet Platini in Warsaw to discuss developments in his country. (Scotsman)