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Hampden Park – Should we stay or should we go?

Date: 29th July 2015

THE exciting 2018 World Cup draw and the game against England opened up a debate about where the colossal fixture should take place.

With the SFA announcing that the game would take place at Hampden Park, long the home of Scottish football, many Tartan Army fans believed the game should be played at Celtic Park or Murrayfield, where undoubtedly thousands more people could attend and arguably the atmosphere would be better.

The SFA, meanwhile, is currently looking at whether to extend the current deal they have with Queen’s Park to continue renting Hampden Park for national team fixtures, which is due to expire in 2020.

Here at the SFSA, we have been speaking to fans up and down the country as to where they would like to see the national team play their fixtures from 2020 onwards.

The recurring options that have emerged are; to stick with Hampden as it is, to improve or rebuild Hampden Park or to tour the country and play fixtures at grounds depending on the likely attendance requiring accommodating.

Our writer Ben Ramage has looked at the positives and negatives of each prospective option.

Keep Hampden exactly as it is.

For: there are a large group of Scotland fans who wish for the national team to continue using Hampden Park as their undisputed home ground. This is mainly down to sentiment that Hampden has long been the home of Scottish football and that is should continue to be so. Many fans have fantastic memories of games at Hampden Park, such as the defeating of France, Holland and Czechoslovakia, of which the games and the atmosphere are favourite memories of following the national side.

The argument also rests on the fact that Scotland rarely sell-out Hampden, so increasing the stadium’s capacity is not necessary. Rebuilding Hampden or improving the stadium would also be an expensive process which the SFA may not have enough funds available to proceed with.

Against: while many fans believe Hampden is a perfectly adequate national stadium, there remains a significant group of Tartan Army fans who believe that the stadium is not befitting of a national football side. These fans’ argument rests largely on the atmosphere of the ground, which they believe is down to the structure and lay-out of the stadium.

Three of Hampden Park’s stands are a significant distance from the pitch. The South stand has a running track in front of it, while the goal-end West and East stands have a large area in front of them which distances supporters from the pitch, and thus the action. This is argued to decrease the atmosphere, as singing as a whole stadium is difficult to effect, particularly as the distance between fans at games is large given that Hampden Park rarely sells out.

Improving or rebuilding Hampden Park.

For: many fans have called for the rebuilding or improvement of Hampden Park. This would keep the national side at the same venue, which would appease those who wish for Hampden to remain the spiritual home of the national team. This could be affected by knocking down the East and West stands and bringing them closer to the pitch. This would bring thousands of fans closer to the pitch, as well as increase the capacity should the stands have two steep tiers instead of one sloping tier.

Rebuilding the national stadium is the most drastic option, but would allow for the construction of a purpose built football stadium, with the maximum amount of fan capacity and fan satisfaction regarding viewing and pricing to be taken into account in the construction. Extra seating would mean that ticket prices could be lowered to try and attract more fans to smaller qualifiers, while the SFA could earn more money by selling more tickets to larger international games.

Against: the construction of a totally new stadium would be hugely expensive and time consuming. With only four years remaining on the current deal, it looks unlikely that another stadium could be built in time, even if the funding was available which it likely is not. The location of the stadium would also take much planning and preparation.

Rebuilding would be difficult, with Hampden one continuous stand rather than four separate stands. While work was ongoing Hampden would also be out of action, meaning the national side would have to use other venues to host qualifiers.

Leave Hampden and use various stadiums around the country.

For: there is the possibility that the national side could leave Hampden Park and use existing stadiums around the country for qualifying and friendly matches. This is the model that Spain and current world champions Germany employ. This model allows for matches to be allocated to stadiums taking into account the likely attendances. This means bigger matches could be hosted at stadiums such as Celtic Park, Ibrox and Murrayfield, while smaller matches could be hosted at grounds such as Tannadice, Pittodrie, Tynecastle and Easter Road.

This would mean that the SFA could ensure that every Scotland game was sold out, by matching games with grounds regarding expected attendances. This would boost atmosphere, as a sold out ground is generally accepted as having a better atmosphere than a half-empty ground. The hosting of games at larger stadiums would also increase revenue, as more tickets could be sold at grounds with larger capacities for games which normally sell out at Hampden.

Against: touring the country would mean that the national team would not have a ‘home’ ground, which some argue would lessen attachment to grounds. Hampden Park is loved by so many because it is the official home of the national team, which would undoubtedly be lost if the team played at various grounds around the country.

The SFA would also have to pay to ‘rent’ each ground which was chosen to host specific games. While the money for this should easily be made back from ticket sales, should games not sell out there is a danger of a shortfall in funding. With the current deal with Queen’s Park in place, which is expected to be a fairly paltry sum, the national team always has a home for national games, as well as being the headquarters of the SFA.

 

What do you think is the best plan of action?

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