HUGH BARROW, Scottish athletics legend, sports historian, stalwart of Glasgow Hawks RFC and one of the few Glasgow Academicals who can and will communicate with scruff like me, sent me an interesting link this morning. It was to “Blog 38” of Queens Park President Alan S Hutchison's entertaining blog on the old club's website. The link is: http://www.queensparkfc.co.uk/?p=6118.
Queens Park President Alan S Hutchison - a persuasive advocate for Hampden
The blog post is entitled: “The Case for Hampden”; it does very-impressively, exactly what is says on the tin.
I have made my thoughts on the vexatious issue of Hampden's future known in the past. In an ideal world, Scotland would have its own truly “National Stadium”, at which our national football and rugby teams' internationals and our major cup finals would be played. This would be a purpose-built, 100,000-capcity, roofed stadium, built somewhere in the central belt, with first-class rail and road links.
Wembley - it would cost £2 billion to build a Scottish version
That's the Utopian vision, but, for as long as REAL political power in Scotland rests at Westminster, it isn't going to happen. It is estimated, the cost of building the new Wembley Stadium today would be £1.09 billion. I would want Hampden to be bigger – Scotland v England, a European Cup Final or an Old Firm Scottish Cup Final could still, I am convinced, if the stadium was right, attract a 100,000-plus attendance. I would want Hampden to be more-modern, and have a roof, while, with a green-field site and transport links fit for purpose, costs would escalate towards I would suggest, at least £2 billion.
So, we can dream. Such a stadium will never be built until Scotland is an independent nation again, and, even then, it will be well down any independent Scottish government's “to-do” list. Meanwhile, we are stuck with Hampden, or one of the alternatives – BT Murrayfield, or taking the big games round club grounds.
At the weekend, for the Scotland v Samoa rugby match, the SRU mounted a charm offensive – I know, as someone who also covers rugby I found the idea of the Murrayfield “suits” being charming funny, but, we move on. They invited some of the more-senior members of the Scottish Football Writer Association along as guests, all were apparently impressed.
Murrayfield - the locals will not fancy regular football there
Yes, Murrayfield can fit-in an additional 15,000 spectators over Hampden, and it is a more-modern stadium, but, there are draw-backs to Murrayfield, as there are at Hampden and at the alternatives.
At the moment, Murrayfield is only full to capacity on six days of the year – the three Autumn Internationals and, every second year, when Scotland has three home matches in the Six Nations. Already, at this very-early stage of: “it might happen three years hence”, some of the well-heeled citizens of West Edinburgh are none-too-happy, expect resistance. Moving football internationals and cup finals to there would add a further ten matches at last per year. Also, within the game of football, there is bound to be resistance to hard-earned money going out of the game to a rival game, through the rental the SRU would seek to extract for hosting games.
There is an immediate draw-back to the nomadic option – the dominance of two clubs in Scotland. It is not impossible, or unheard of, but, it is still rare to have a Scottish trophy final in which one or other of Rangers or Celtic is not involved. So, with their huge following to accommodate, if Rangers are in the final, it would have to go to Celtic Park, and vice versa, while, if both were in a final, what happens to neutrality?
Mr Hutchison, in his blog, makes a couple of points which are nearly always glossed over or ignored. Hampden, uniquely, offers secure entry and egress for the clubs and VIPs, through it's underground “garage”, while, only it and Ibrox hold “Elite” level status – the Celtic Park dressing rooms are too-small, so, though it is the biggest ground in football, it does not meet Elite level status.
Hampden's greatest game? Puskas scores for Real Madrid n 1960
Then there is Hampden's history, going back over 100-years. The Hampden Roar – allegedly first set-off by Alec Cheyne's last-minute goal, direct from a corner in 1929; the still-standing European attendance records set 80-years ago in 1937; the Real Madrid v Eintracht European Cup Final in 1960; the Celtic v Leeds “Battle of Britain” in 1971; the Czechoslovakia game in 1973; Dalglish's goal against Spain; Zidane's goal; the 2014 Commonwealth Games – that's a lot of history to simply discard.
Also, the SFA offices are there, Hampden is Scottish Football's home. Leaving home is always traumatic. No, going will be a big step.
Of course, the ground, as it presently sits, is flawed. The site lines are terrible, when it was re-developed, it was a piece-meal job. The then Westminster politicians who would fall over themselves to fund the new Wembley this century, that rebuilding, never forget, because it was a "National" stadium, being partly-funded by Scottish taxpayers; last century wanted nothing to do with rebuilding Hampden. With the “Sweaties” seemingly hell-bent on leaving, they will be even less-keen to take a stake in putting Hampden right, and, as I have already said – while the Scottish Government might be sympathetic to Hampden's draw-backs, and putting them right, they have more-serious matters to put right first.
Ideally, those vast open spaces behind each goal would vanish, the crowd would be brought closer, the stands would be steeper. The fact is, putting the flaws right in the present Hampden might well be more-expensive than building anew.
Then there is the fact, Queens Park, a small, down-league amateur club in a professional league has maintained a big interest in the company which owns and operates Hampden. I have long argued, Lesser Hampden ought to have been re-developed as a home for the Spiders – as Cardiff Arms Park was developed for Cardiff RFC when the Principality Stadium was built. This could still happen.
Hampden when it held 150,000 fans
The sad thing is, in 1903, Queens Park was also an amateur club, but, back then it could fund and build Hampden – why is it not possible today for the same private entity to fund modernisation and rebuilding – where have we gone wrong in the intervening 100-years-plus.
Mind you, at the end of the day, Scottish football being Scottish football, there will be a lot of sound and fury, a lot of horse-trading, but, the SFA and Scotland will stay at Hampden.
I say this for two reasons – the first is, in Scottish football, as in Scottish Rugby: it's aye been. The second, of the three main entities in this squabble – the SFA, Queens Park and the SRU – the SFA might appear to be the mightiest, but, they are the stupidest. And in this fight, it is brains which will win. But, do have a read at President's Blog 38.