Home of Scottish Football to be decided
After 120 years, the home of Scottish football could be making its way to the capital. Members of the SFA are set to decide whether to move international and domestic cup matches through to Murrayfield. However, could Scottish football lose a sense of identity if they leave Hampden behind. ENRG Sport’s David Ronney discusses the potential move.
Right off the bat I want to say Murrayfield is a fantastic stadium. It’s not a great deal away from the city centre, the capacity reaches just over 67,000 (which is 15,000 more than Hampden) and has been known to generate a great atmosphere for rugby matches. That’s the difference though, it’s a stadium known for its electric rugby atmosphere, not its football. No Hearts fan walked away from their handful of matches at Murrayfield last season and said: “Woah, that was immense.” So why all of a sudden has the idea came to be moving the national team through to the East side of Scotland?
Hampden has gone through its fair share of criticism over the years for a lack of atmosphere. This is partially due to the distance between the pitch to the stands and the angle that the seats rise per row. Another factor is that football fans aren’t willing to pay £25-30 to watch a mediocre clash against Malta or Gibraltar. All of these criticisms would only be heightened with a move to Murrayfield. The stands are even further away from the pitch in the Edinburgh ground and if there wasn’t a price deduction for certain matches, I could almost guarantee that Murrayfield would struggle to reach its capacity.
In the long haul, this move could make an extra few thousand for the SFA in their ‘bigger’ matches against Europe’s elite in tournament qualifiers. But what I keep thinking is, what’s going to happen to Hampden? It’s hardly like Queen’s Park are going to fill out the 52,000-capacity stadium. The SFA themselves operate within Hampden, does that mean all the operations move through to Edinburgh as well? If so the transition would cause numerous problems for board members who regularly attend meetings every week. The impression I get is the SFA have this idea that they’re jumping from a sinking ship, but the reality is that the ship wasn’t even in danger of sinking in the first place.
The SFA rent out Hampden from their Queens Park neighbours. So, the vote on the Murrayfield switch could potentially be seen as a scare tactic on the League Two side to lower the rent or sell off the stadium to Scotland’s governing body. If the latter was to occur, then it could open the door to the renovation of Hampden to tackle some of the issues that I highlighted earlier.
Honestly, I find that the fact it’s got to the point where the SFA are having to vote on this move incredibly surprising. If the board really want to do a service to the national team and its supporters, then why don’t they decide to host several qualifiers and friendlies across Scotland. It’s no secret that Hampden struggles to create a crowd for certain matches, so why don’t you play these games in grounds such as Rugby Park or Fir Park. Sell-out crowd and have a portion of the ticket sales go to the Scottish club. That’s a win-win in my eyes. Sure, there’s always a risk that fans won’t travel the extra distance, especially if it’s a midweek tie for what could end up being an average game. But it’s a better idea than deserting the home of Scottish football for over a century purely to mix things up.
On the matter of domestic cup finals, keep these matches at Hampden. It’s as simple as that. There’s only six cup matches played at the national stadium a season, so what difference would it make changing the venue to Edinburgh? A compromise could be hosting one of the semi-finals at Murrayfield as an experiment for one season and see what the fan reception is to the change.
Finally, I would like to end on this. If the vote goes in favour for a switch to Murrayfield from 2020 onwards then I will accept the decision with open arms. But I will say this. Hampden holds a special place in not only my heart but many football fans for so many iconic moments over the years. David Gray’s winner against Rangers, Tom Rogic’s strike against Aberdeen and Leigh Griffiths’ double against England are just a handful of historic moments that have occurred just over the last three years alone.
You go back a few more years, Zidane’s volley in the 2002 Champions League final, one of the best goals in the final of the competition. The win against Czechoslovakia in 1973 to take Scotland to their first World Cup finals in 16 years. Hampden for all its criticism is a fantastic stadium that is rich in its history and if Scotland leave that behind then it will be a tough task making Murrayfield a place fit to be called home.