The Pros and Cons of the SFA ditching Hampden

Hampden Park. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Hampden Park. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
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It is an idea that gets thrown around every few years, but now, the notion that Scotland’s international football matches may move from Hampden seems to have gained more traction this time round.

With just over two years until Scottish football’s governing body will have to formally decide whether or not to leave their current home, fans still seem split on the issue.

The SFA could move away from Hampden, with new stadia, the Old Firm grounds, and even the home of Scottish rugby, Murrayfield, touted as potential replacements.

SFA boss Stewart Regan was equivocal on renewing the lease when asked last week, and we aim to give the under-fire Chief Executive a helping hand by weighing up the pros and cons of leaving Hampden.

Pro - Atmosphere

There’s no doubt that the Hampden crowd, when at capacity, and when there is much at stake, can still produce an almighty racket.

England striker Harry Kane, who nearly silenced the Hampden crowd with a late equaliser in the 2-2 draw with Scotland earlier this year, called it one of the best atmospheres he had ever experienced.

READ MORE: Ex-Scotland boss Craig Levein wants internationals at Murrayfield

Interim manager Malky Mackay, for his part, has urged the SFA not to ditch Hampden on account of the atmosphere.

However, the facts of the stadium’s architecture can’t be altered – the bowl layout means that noise can dissipate if the stadium isn’t packed to capacity.

The North and South stands, home to the fiercest Tartan Army representatives and the most expensive seats respectively, are close to the pitch, but the stands behind each goal are much further away, making it harder for fans to create the fiery atmosphere needed to make Scotland’s home a true fortress.

A stadium like Celtic Park wouldn’t have this problem, as anyone who has attended a European match at Parkhead could tell you.

Con – Deciding on a new stadium

But what if it wasn’t Celtic Park? If Rangers’ ground was favoured instead, there would surely be a row the likes of which Scottish football hasn’t seen since our last major row, as there would be should any one club’s stadium be chosen by the SFA.

If the SFA decides to go down the ‘Spanish route’ and decide not to commit to one stadium, but instead to rotate where the national team games and cup finals are held, there could also be a risk of antagonising clubs and fans.

READ MORE: Murrayfield to be offered to SFA

If Celtic Park is decided as the Scottish Cup Final venue for 2022, for example, and Celtic make the final, the club’s opponents could reasonably consider that an unfair advantage.

Leaving it until the final’s opponents are clear provides the SFA with more leeway, but potential administrative and logistical headaches.

Even rotating the grounds for Scotland games could be problematic, as attendances often fluctuate depending on Scotland’s position in a given qualifying group.

Pro – Fans on board

There hasn’t been any scientific polling on the issue of whether or not to move away from Hampden, most pollsters being too busy with such trivial issues like who is running the country.

Over the past year or so, most national newspapers have ran unscientific but nevertheless interesting online polls on the home of Scottish football, with the vast majority showing readers prefer moving to a new home.

No matter what the true figure is on leaving Hampden (those online polls would suggest a roughly 60/40 split in favour of a new home), there could still be upside for the SFA in leaving in terms of their increasingly fractious relationship with Scotland fans.

Moving away from Hampden, after studiously weighing up the available options, could endear the unpopular Regan in the eyes of supporters.

He has been criticised for a perceived stubborn attitude, and a willingness to change could prove that the SFA has the potential to be a vibrant, forward-thinking organisation, rather than the stuffy old-boys club many believe it to be.

Con - History

For every fan, however, who believes that ‘out with the old, in with the new’ is the way forward for Scottish football, there will be one who believes that a price can’t be put on tradition.

Hampden struggles with atmosphere, and leaves much to be desired in terms of transport links, but to many it will always be the home of Scottish football.

Despite a few face lifts, Hampden remains ubiquitous as the beating heart of the game in Scotland, something which the SFA will need to tread carefully around.

Many fans will be forgiven for mourning if the governing body decides to jump ship, and the prime real estate of Hampden is sold off to a retail or property developer.

While there are undoubted problems with the ground, and the SFA is keeping its options open, for many, leaving a ground which has hosted Scotland’s biggest games for over a hundred years, will be simply too much to bear.