Emotion, history, politics, money and the great Hampden head-scratcher

first_img Facebook Share on LinkedIn Kevin McKenna Lost in the emotional pull of Scottish football’s instantly identifiable home is the kind of commercial dialogue inevitable in 2018. It is little wonder the Scottish FA correlates making a Hampden call to playing three dimensional chess. Every move has heavy consequences. From 2020 – a year in which Hampden is scheduled to host European Championship games – the association must extend or halt a two-decade-old lease from Queen’s Park. It is hardly a leap of faith to infer the £300,000 received by Queen’s from the £800,000 paid annually – the rest is essential to maintain the stadium – keeps the club above water.The Scottish FA has options. On Friday board members were delivered a sizeable business study which considers remaining at Hampden versus utilising alternative venues. It is that document which will come under scrutiny on Tuesday. Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby, has made a pitch. So, too, have Celtic Park and Ibrox. With Tynecastle, Easter Road and a newly proposed ground in Aberdeen available as smaller stadiums, the question is widely posed as to why Hampden is necessary. It is, though, Scottish football’s administrative base and a location not thought to have anything remotely resembling a high alternative value.“It is a difficult discussion,” says the Scottish FA’s chief executive, Stewart Regan. “We have to look at the situation we find ourselves in, which is the lease expires; we have an option to renew on exactly the same terms. We have got to decide whether that is a good option for Scottish football. Is it a good use of money for another 20 years?“So we commissioned a piece of work. First and foremost we will be looking at that from a financial perspective. Subject to the finances we will have to factor in other things be they political, emotional or social considerations.” Pinterest Share via Email Hampden erupts as Leigh Griffiths (right) scores against England. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images For all that complainants tend to make the most noise, there has been rancour in recent years regarding poor views, acoustics and facilities on offer at Hampden, which was last redeveloped to the tune of £59m in 1999. Behind each goal the scene is essentially of shallow terraces with seats bolted on. Those ends could be rebuilt but at a projected £100m+ cost. And yet the epic noise as Leigh Griffiths cracked home free-kicks for Scotland against England last June suggests Hampden can still produce that spine-tingling atmosphere which once contributed to its fame.The Scottish FA’s wholly owned subsidiary, Hampden Park Ltd, runs the stadium. Its managing director, Peter Dallas, understandably backs the “stay” cause. He says: “Our position is to inform the Scottish FA board on the national stadium’s viability beyond the current lease from a factual position, looking at maintenance costs now and in the future as well as other operational considerations in line with all other tenderers in the process.“I believe Hampden Park remains not only the best option for Scotland’s competitive international home matches and cup semi-finals and finals but the only option.” Topics Football Share on Twitter Read more Michael O’Neill turns down Scotland job to stay with Northern Ireland Share on WhatsApp Read more features Share on Messenger Saturday’s meeting of Queen’s Park and table‑topping Ayr United drew a relatively strong crowd, for a Scottish League One fixture, of 1,233. That more than 50,000 seats remained empty at Hampden Park highlights one of the game’s great quirks, anomalies or annoyances depending on standpoint.The future fate of Queen’s, an amateur team formed in 1867 and owners of Scottish football’s national stadium on present site since 1903, is intrinsically linked to boardroom talks as scheduled for Tuesday. Discussion regarding Hampden’s fate has proved a slow burner, almost to the point many are unaware of the very real possibility of it being discarded. The host venue of the iconic 1960 European Cup final, the scene of 149,547 – officially – attending a Scotland v England fixture, the setting for that Zinedine Zidane volley in 2002 is under threat. Share on Pinterest Twitter There is a political undertone to this topic. In recent days it has emerged that Glasgow City Council is keen to meet the Scottish FA in an attempt to safeguard Hampden until at least 2025. The stadium, when hosting music concerts as well as football, proves highly lucrative for the city. The Scottish government, which will be subject to elections in 2021, is also under private pressure to assist with a potential funding gap. Owing in part to a lack of major finals involvement going back to 1998, the Scottish FA cannot possibly pay for any Hampden rebuild on its own. The pursuit of public money by football is, however, a thorny affair.It is unclear what would represent utopia for the SFA. “That depends where you are starting from and how much money you have at your disposal,” Regan admits. “If money was no object, you would perhaps consider either building a new stadium or completely redeveloping Hampden. But we don’t have that luxury because we don’t have an unlimited pot of capital at our disposal.”The concept of a wholly neutral venue is important to some, as is the fear of handing money out of football and to Scottish Rugby or the hiring of specific stadia, solely increasing the bank balances of the country’s biggest clubs. There is no question Scotland would suffer embarrassment should a national football stadium be mothballed given that the very same continues to be the case in Dublin, Belfast and Cardiff. “What would that say about football’s role as the national game in Scotland, the country in which the game was invented?” Dallas asks.For now there are a multitude of questions. The Scottish FA is in the invidious position of needing to supply answers. At least Scotland’s women know how to play football Scotland Share on Facebook Reuse this contentlast_img read more

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