Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Celts want Dublin as their Champions League home

Celtic, seen here playing Liverpool in a glamour friendly at the Aviva in the close season, are exploring the possibility of using the stadium as their base for European games next season
Celtic, seen here playing Liverpool in a glamour friendly at the Aviva in the close season, are exploring the possibility of using the stadium as their base for European games next season

Celtic will ask Uefa if they can play next summer's Champions League ties in Ireland or England, their chief executive revealed yesterday.

Parkhead, along with Ibrox and Hampden, is to be used for the Commonwealth Games next summer, at the same time as the Scottish champions – assuming they achieve a third successive title –will be required to play European qualifiers.

Murrayfield is the only other Scottish ground with a capacity similar to that of Celtic's 60,000-seat stadium, and remains the most likely alternative venue, but when asked if the decision to use the home of Scottish rugby had been finalised, Peter Lawwell, Celtic's chief executive, said: "Not yet. We are in discussion with Uefa in terms of what options we have.

"Once they are happy with those options then we will go and speak to the relevant owners of the stadia, possibly outside Scotland.

"It could be England or Ireland. The Aviva in Dublin or Croke Park or maybe even down south at a northern Premiership club. We have a big support in Dublin and the stadium was full when we played Liverpool in the summer there, so that would be great."

Asked if he had been given any idea what Uefa's likely reaction would be, Lawwell replied: "We have to take that to them, but remember there is a precedent there from when we played at Old Trafford against Rapid Vienna (in 1984).

"Internally we are developing a few options then we will take those to Uefa and see what they think. It's a list of three or four, maybe five. We'll look at that internally and then when we come up with a preferred three we will take it forward.

"Murrayfield is a big attraction clearly because it is near for the supporters, it's a fantastic stadium and that would be a high contender.

"That would be the only Scottish option. Neil (Lennon) would have an impact on the decision and we would need to look at ways of making sure the atmosphere was there and it was well attended. We will probably reach a decision early in the new year."

The most likely English venues, in terms of emotional connections with the Celtic support, would be Old Trafford or Anfield, but it is also possible that Newcastle or Sunderland would come into the equation.

As for Dublin, Neil Lennon's men have a significant number of Irish fans who would turn out for the chance to watch their heroes in action in the capital city.

Lawwell also revealed that Celtic were already thinking about candidates to replace Lennon in the event that the manager departs as a consequence of the team's exploits in the Champions League. Lennon, who has a one-year rolling contract, was connected with Everton when David Moyes left for Manchester United in the summer.

"I'm sure he will be courted at some point," Lawwell said.

"We need to be realistic and accept that and plan for the succession."

Meanwhile Celtic will step up attempts to renew the contract of Georgios Samaras after tying down fellow striker Anthony Stokes for two more years.

Stokes signed a new three-year contract on Tuesday that commits him to Celtic until the summer of 2016.

And the club is looking to secure new deals for Greece forward Samaras and Wales midfielder Joe Ledley, whose contracts both expire at the end of the season.

Lawwell said: "We are meeting Samaras's agent some time next week.

"With regard to Ledley we are in constant discussions, we are to-ing and fro-ing on that one."

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