In January 2007, the Scottish FA asked UEFA to consider a feasibility study into an expanded 24-team UEFA European Championship.
Let's see what David Taylor (SFA chief executive) had to say:
'I would like to disabuse anyone of the notion that Scotland and Ireland are making this proposal for the simple reason that this is the only chance we would have to qualify for the final round of a major tournament.
Scotland are currently top of our Euro 2008 qualifying group - although to be fair Ireland are struggling a bit in theirs.
We have nothing but the good of football at heart in making this proposal.'
Absolutely... not true :) Let's see why.
Comparing actual and "what if" (24 teams) qualification results, I'll try to find out who would have gained the most by an expansion to 24 teams starting from the 1996 edition.
It's pretty straight forward. For each team I'll compute a score: 100 points for direct qualification, 90 points for qualification through play-offs and 10 points for a play-off defeat. For the 24 teams analysis, I'll award 100 points for a direct qualification and 40 points if a team would have qualified for the play-offs. Then I'll look at the differences.
22 teams would have been completely unaffected: Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cyprus, Estonia, Faroe Islands, FYR Macedonia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova and San Marino
4 teams would have been slightly affected (i.e. the number of they qualified would have stayed the same, but they would have avoided the play-offs): Netherlands, Spain, Denmark and Latvia.
40 points: Romania, Switzerland, Austria, Georgia and Iceland
50 points: Croatia and Russia
80 points: Poland, Slovakia and Finland
90 points: Ukraine and Wales
100 points: Sweden, Turkey, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Lithuania
110 points: England
130 points: Israel
140 points: Greece, Serbia and Belgium
200 points: Northern Ireland
280 points: Scotland
290 points: Norway
320 points: Republic of Ireland
Even by ignoring EURO 2008 (the qualification was not over at the time of the proposal), the top 5 differences would have been:
220 points: Republic of Ireland
190 points: Norway
180 points: Scotland
140 points: Greece and Belgium
So two of the top 3 countries that would have had the most to gain in terms of EURO qualification came forward with this proposal, but they want us to believe they had nothing but the good of football in heart in making this proposal.
Indeed, nothing but the good of football :)