Glasgow City Council demand Hampden remains National Stadium in letter to SFA

The Daily Record, by Keith McLeod
20.08.18

Abandoning Hampden Park as the home of Scottish football would leave a “historic stain which would be impossible to erase”, Glasgow City Council have claimed.

The SFA should continue to use the famous ground because the alternative would be “devastating” for communities, council leader Susan Aitken added.

She also said that safe standing areas could easily be introduced at Hampden in a bid to improve sight lines.

Her comments are the latest salvos in the contest between Glasgow and ­Edinburgh to stage big Scotland ­international matches and provide a neutral venue for cup finals.

Murrayfield – the home of Scottish rugby – has launched a bid to take ­football away from Glasgow, offering 67,000 seats against Hampden’s 51,000.

If approved, the plan to relocate to could happen after Hampden hosts Euro 2020 finals matches.

In 1927, Hampden had no roof and there was plenty of green space nearby

In a letter seen by the Daily Record, Aitken pulls no punches in urging the SFA to the national sport’s spiritual home at Hampden, in the heart of King’s Park and Mount Florida.

She tells them: “To abandon those communities would be devastating, both to them and the wider area.

“To do so immediately after the last UEFA Euro 2020 match would be a tragic irony, creating a historic stain on Scottish football I believe would be impossible to erase.”

She adds: “The local community have also made clear that they see Hampden as a crucial partner for development in the area.

“Any decision which resulted in the loss of Hampden’s role as the home for the Scottish national team and major domestic cup games would be ­devastating for that community and its economy.

By 1965, the traditional ‘Rangers end’ was covered

“The SFA have a clear moral ­responsibility to Mount Florida and King’s Park, built up over decades.”

Aitken also points to the success Glasgow enjoys as an international venue for sporting events following the 2014 Commonwealth Games and this month’s European Championships.

Aitken also points to infrastructure changes in the pipeline such as the South City Way which will provide walking and cycling routes between the south side and the Merchant City.

She says better public transport will also be introduced along with public transport one-offs for major events through the Event Transport Plan.

She insists that the council will not be difficult to deal with if changes within the stadium are needed.

By 1980, Hampden was still hosting big matches but was in need of renovation

That would include safe standing zones like the 2600 rail seats installed at Celtic Park in 2016, becoming the first club in Britain to do so.

The seats enable fans to choose if they want to stand, adding to the atmosphere and, in Hampden’s case, could improve the sight lines at the east and west ends of the stadium.

Aitken says: “One of the most significant developments in fan experience in recent years has been pioneered in Glasgow, with Celtic Park successfully operating a safe standing area for the past two seasons.

“Were an application for a standing area at Hampden submitted to Glasgow City Council, providing it met all the relevant safety, stewarding and accessibility criteria, there would be no obvious barriers to the bid being approved by the authority.”

The two-page letter from the SNP council leader was emailed to SFA president Alan McRae and Hampden Park managing director Peter Dallas on Friday.

It is the clearest signal yet that the city council will fight tooth and nail to keep Hampden as the home of Scottish football.

Redevelopment work starts on the open terracing in 1993

Many of the criticisms of the stadium – its remoteness from the city centre, travel issues and poor sight lines behind both goals – are addressed head-on.

There are clear signs that the city council will back the SFA through licensing procedures if Hampden is retained.

Aitken also says that Glasgow is known throughout the world because of its place in the history of football and a match played in the city in 1872.

She says: “In the wake of the FIFA World Cup, it is also worth restating the pride Glasgow takes in its role in the history of the world’s most popular sport, playing host to the first ever international football match.”

On Friday, rank and file police warned that moving big football matches to Edinburgh would be disruptive and costly.

Scottish Police Federation general secretary Calum Steele said he is “agnostic” over which venue should prevail.

By 1999 the stadium was now fully covered and all seated

But he warned that moving matches to Edinburgh would have both “human and financial costs”.

Moving away would be a wrench for many fans after so many years seeing Scotland matches and cup finals take place at Hampden.

It has also played host to legendary games such as the European Cup finals of 1960 and 2002.

The main criticism of fans is the areas behind both goals where spectators are too far away from the pitch.

Hamish Husband, spokesman for West of Scotland Tartan Army supporters, prefers to stay at a renewed Hampden Park.

He said: “I would personally back any campaign to keep Hampden for Scotland matches.

“Hampden is the natural home of Scottish football, where Scottish internationals should be played and as a neutral venue for cup finals.

“Fans want Hampden to be upgraded to a more modern stadium.

“Certain improvements to the stadium will need to be made and the question is who will pay for that.

“The stadium is not universally loved, however.

“It is something that is discussed among fan groups and they are split on this.

“I would like to see the ends of the stadium squared off to bring it in line with other modern football stadiums.”

The final decision on where future Scotland matches are played is likely to be taken by the SFA next month.