NEWS

Soccer violence hits 2008 bid

GENEVA (Reuters) – The president of UEFA, Lennart Johansson, appears to have ruled out the chances of Russia and the joint bid from Greece and Turkey in the race to host the 2008 European soccer championship. The UEFA president cited the Moscow theater siege last month and the crowd trouble at the UEFA Cup tie between Greek club Panathinaikos and Turkish rivals Fenerbahche as reasons why UEFA might not look favorably on the two bids. Johansson was asked in an interview with Swiss-French newspaper Le Dimanche whether the incidents surrounding the match between Fenerbahce and Panathinaikos could have negatively affected the joint candidature of Greece and Turkey. «That’s true,» Johansson replied. «And there was also this terrible hostage drama in Moscow. That will also be taken into consideration for the final decision, as well as what has happened in Ireland. We have to bear all that in mind.» Ireland’s joint bid with Scotland has been dogged by the refusal of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) to allow their Croke Park stadium to be used for soccer. Under their rules it can only be used for Gaelic games. Johansson seemed positive about the joint bid from Austria and Switzerland. «It is a candidature that makes sense,» he said. «Switzerland is building new stadiums and possesses long-lasting assets such as financial and political stability, its communication network, its accommodation capabilities and its security. Switzerland’s chances are therefore very realistic.» The seven candidates to host the 2008 finals comprise solo bids from Russia and Hungary and joint bids from Ireland-Scotland, Greece-Turkey, Bosnia-Croatia, Austria-Switzerland and the Nordic nations (Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland). UEFA’s executive committee will decide on December 12.