Scottish FA CEO Ian Maxwell says it would be “devastating” for Hampden Park to lose Euro 2020 matches; in a wide-ranging interview, Maxwell also says he is confident Steve Clarke will remain Scotland manager amid Celtic links; “He is absolutely committed to the job he’s got here”
Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell has told Sky Sports News that it would be “devastating” for Hampden Park to lose Euro 2020 matches to Wembley, adding that there is an early April deadline for host nations to tell UEFA about potential crowd numbers.
In a wide-ranging interview, Maxwell discussed Steve Clarke’s future as Scotland manager, the offer to trial FIFA’s new ‘VAR lite’ technology, and the investigation into Rangers’ Covid breach – on top of the Euro 2020 uncertainty.
Reports this week suggested Glasgow and Dublin are set to be dropped as host nations at this summer’s European Championships over concerns around the number of fans that will be allowed to attend matches due to coronavirus restrictions.
The Scottish Government has said it is still planning to host matches at Hampden Park, which is due to stage four fixtures during the tournament – three group games and a round-of-16 tie.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland should not be thinking it could lose Euros matches, and Maxwell echoed this stance as talks between the Government and the Scottish FA continue.
“We need to get to the point where they are confirmed at Hampden,” Maxwell told Sky Sports News. “That’s what everybody wants to achieve. It would be devastating for the nation if we lost games, particularly if the obvious destination for them is Wembley. I don’t think that’s what anybody wants to see.
“The 12 host cities are going through a process with UEFA. We have an early April deadline to confirm the allowed spectator capacity within each stadium. As we sit here right now, no host city can confirm that they can have spectators or not, because this virus changes quickly and we all need to adapt to that.
“We are engaged with and in conversations with Government on a very regular basis. We’ve got a meeting with the cabinet secretary next week to discuss the Euros.”
Earlier this week, the English Football Association said there are no plans to host additional Euro 2020 games, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson claiming the UK has made offers to UEFA. Meanwhile, UEFA has reiterated it intends to hold Euro 2020 across 12 countries this summer.
Sturgeon: Scotland ‘absolutely intent’ on hosting Euros
Speaking on Friday, Sturgeon said Scotland remained “absolutely intent” on having the Euros at Hampden.
“Nobody wants to lose the Euros and I don’t think we should be in the position right now of thinking that is the case,” she said.
“Let me be very clear. We are absolutely intent on having the Euros, having Hampden as one of the host stadiums of the Euros. We have always been intent on that.”
Maxwell said it was “reassuring” to hear Sturgeon reiterate the Government’s desire to stage four matches of the Euros, adding that he hopes there is enough time for restrictions to ease and supporters to be allowed into stadiums.
“The Government have outlined their route map to get us back to some sort of normality in April, May time, which is enough in advance of the tournament to make sure we can get spectators here,” Maxwell added.
“The Government will decide how many spectators are allowed in ultimately. That’s not for Scottish FA staff.
“We’ll work with them to make sure the regulations and requirements we need to implement within the stadium are such to give them the confidence that there can be a number of spectators allowed in, so ultimately it will be a Government decision.”
Earlier this week, Hearts owner Ann Budge said she was downcast about the prospect of fans returning to stadiums, claiming “real change” would be needed to even entertain the thought of full-capacity crowds at any point next season.
Asked about Budge’s comments, Maxwell said: “I don’t think wrong is the right word. Nobody knows, is the reality. I wouldn’t think she suggested there would be no fans in stadiums. I think people talk about fans in stadiums and talk about full houses.
“We’re probably a period of time away from seeing that. I think the gradual return is really important for the people that want to come and watch the football, the clubs, the players, and that’s something we need to make sure we get back as soon as we possibly can.
“I see the Euros as a big step in that process. If we can get fans back into Hampden for the Euro matches and do it safely and properly, that will give Scottish Government and everybody else that Scottish football can do this.”
Clarke committed to Scotland amid Celtic links
Maxwell said he is confident Clarke will remain the manager of the national side despite being linked with the Celtic job following Neil Lennon’s departure last month.
Clarke is among the favourites to replace Lennon, but during a Q&A session with Edinburgh-based club Team United earlier this week he spoke of his aims to take Scotland to the 2022 World Cup finals.
“I have a contract with the Scottish FA up until December 2022 and hopefully I can take the team to the World Cup finals in Qatar in 2022 as well,” said Clarke. “That would be great and then maybe I can think about club football.”
Maxwell said the links with Celtic were a sign Scotland made the right appointment, and added he was “absolutely” confident Clarke would oversee their World Cup qualifying campaign.
“He is absolutely committed to the job he’s got here,” Maxwell said. “It’s flattering but it shows we made the right appointment that people are talking about him moving on and to club football.
“Steve is 100 per cent committed to the Euros. He knows exactly what it means to the country and he wants to make sure we give as good an account of ourselves as we can. I’m sure once that tournament is out of the way, I think he’s said to the kids he is looking forward to getting a holiday and then getting us qualified for Qatar in 2022.”