THE city council is set to call on the Scottish Football Association to stage next month’s cup final at Murrayfield instead of Hampden Park.
A majority of councillors across the political spectrum is backing the call for the match between Hearts and Hibs to be played in the Capital rather than Glasgow.
They say it makes sense to have the game in Edinburgh rather than see thousands of fans having to travel to the west.
Labour has tabled a motion for the next full council meeting, instructing the city’s chief executive to work with the two clubs and the SFA in a bid to bring the match to Murrayfield.
Edinburgh Western SNP MSP Colin Keir said he would also be lodging a motion on the issue at Holyrood.
So far the SFA has shown little sign of being willing to listen to the pleas. A spokesman said: “The Scottish Cup final will take place at Hampden Park. No other venue will be considered.”
Scottish rugby chiefs, however, have said they would explore the idea of moving the game to Murrayfield, if they were approached.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, SNP MSP for Edinburgh East, said the Murrayfield option should be looked at. He said: “Consideration has to be given to Murrayfield. This is a huge occasion.”
But he declined to opt for either ground. “There are good arguments both ways,” he said. “I will just be happy to get a ticket.”
The Evening News contacted all 58 city councillors to ask their views. Of those who responded, 37 said the final should be at Murrayfield while nine said Hampden.
Labour said the SFA should at least consider the calls to shift the final out of Glasgow for only the second time in its history for the same reason as the first time back in 1896 – that the game is between Hearts and Hibs.
Hibs-supporting Labour councillor Gordon Munro and his Hearts-supporting colleague Ricky Henderson, who lodged the party’s motion, issued a joint statement saying: “Both our clubs will fill Hampden but we could also fill Murrayfield, which has a much bigger capacity and is much nearer for the majority of fans of both clubs. Murrayfield would make it more affordable for families when money is tight to attend.”
SNP deputy council leader Steve Cardownie has already voiced his support for holding the game at Murrayfield. But today council leader Jenny Dawe said while she backed the idea of Murrayfield, she did not believe it was a practical possibility.
She said: “In an ideal world, it would be more environmentally friendly, less hassle and would allow for more supporters to watch the game live to have the final at Murrayfield and I would prefer it to be there; but I would think it impossible to change the venue now. The tickets are probably being printed already and I know of several groups of fans that have already arranged their transport to Glasgow.”
Leith Lib Dem councillor Marjorie Thomas said Hampden was the home of Scottish football and that was where the final should be held. She added: “Politicians should stop trying to drum up publicity over this by turning it into some parochial publicity stunt.”
But City Centre SNP councillor Alasdair Rankin said: “I’m all in favour of a Murrayfield final. It’s much more convenient for the fans and I don’t see a compelling reason to hold every cup final at Hampden. As history shows, Hibs and Hearts don’t reach the final every year and holding the match at Murrayfield would make for a very special Edinburgh day.”
Green councillor Steve Burgess said: “Surely these clubs have won the right to play the final in Edinburgh and it should be up to the fans. With Murrayfield’s bigger capacity, thousands more could get to see the game and save on the cost of trailing through to Glasgow.”
Lib Dem Gordon Mackenzie said: “I’d go with Murrayfield but the sad thing is everyone knows there’s no chance of the SFA helping the fans here. After all, which is more likely to make history, Hibs winning the cup or the SFA doing something sensible?”
Colin Keir, right, who is a councillor as well as an MSP, said a Murrayfield final would be a great day out for people in Edinburgh. “It would be one of the events of the decade,” he said. “This is the biggest Edinburgh derby in years, the fan base is here and particularly in a time of austerity it would save everyone a lot of money. They should have it at Murrayfield.”
But fellow Nationalist, Edinburgh Southern MSP Jim Eadie, left, argued for Hampden. He said: “The players have earned the right to compete in the cup final in Scotland’s national stadium and no-one should take that from them.”
Lothians Tory MSP David McLetchie said the match had to be played at Hampden.
He said: “This argument was lost years ago when it was decided to rebuild Hampden. Hearts fans will remember we won the cup at Celtic Park in 1998 because Hampden was being rebuilt.
“At that time it would have been sensible to have a national stadium for rugby and football in the Capital at Murrayfield, but that choice was not made.
“Now we have Hampden we have to use it.”
Former Hearts chairman and ex-Lothians MSP Lord Foulkes said he understood the calls for the match to be at Murrayfield. But he said: “On balance, I come down in favour of Hampden. Players always want to be in a cup final at Hampden.”
Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said Murrayfield was the sensible choice. She said: “A lot of fans are out of work and watching their money. They have been loyal all season to Hearts and Hibs. Definitely from the fans’ point of view Murrayfield is a better bet. I can understand players who have never played at Hampden really wanting to go – that’s a thrill all of its own, but it would be a lot easier for fans who are finding it tight.”
First Minister hails ‘exciting prospect’ of historic tie
The First Minister has said he is “looking forward” to the first all-Edinburgh Scottish Cup final for more than a century.
Alex Salmond, a self-confessed Hearts fan, said: “Congratulations to Hearts and Hibs on their Scottish Cup semi-final victories over the weekend.
“We now have the exciting prospect of an all-Edinburgh cup final – the first since 1896, and I look forward to it.
“Despite some of the stories that have hit the headlines off the pitch, this has actually turned into a very exciting season on the pitch.
“Celtic were the outstanding team in the SPL and the deserved champions, Kilmarnock won the Communities League Cup, Ross County have won promotion to the SPL, and we now have an all-Edinburgh cup final to look forward to.
“In addition, although it’s early days, we have seen a significant improvement in fan behaviour.
“All in all a much better prospect for Scottish football.”
‘A Murrayfield switch would mean a lot of cancellations’
TRANSPORT bosses and fans alike have begun firming up their travel plans for the May showpiece final with extra rail carriages being lined up.
Coach operators Prentice Westwood, the largest in Central Scotland, has told how their entire 28-coach fleet is already booked out by football fans.
And rail operator ScotRail today said it had begun planning for a Hampden final until told otherwise.
Prentice Westwood director, Robbie Prentice, said: “We’re fully booked already; that’s 28 49-seater coaches. Most supporters’ clubs rebooked as soon as their place in the final was confirmed on either Saturday or Sunday. The remainder of our fleet went in a couple of hours on Monday. A switch to Murrayfield would result in a lot of cancellations for us.”
Meanwhile on the trains, a ScotRail spokesman confirmed that a host of extra carriages will be drafted in.
He said: “Planning is under way to accommodate as many fans as possible. We will announce details of expanded services as soon as we can.”
No decision has yet been taken on whether alcohol-free “dry trains” might be instated to lessen the chances of public disorder between both sets of fans travelling on the same line.
What they say on Twitter
@MagnusJWMiller: Absolutely - has to be at Murrayfield.
@NiallBhoy: Can’t stand Hampden either, such a terrible stadium. If both hearts and hibs want Murrayfield they should let them!
@stayatours: Lets have an all Edinburgh event played at Murrayfield.
@rikelly78: no brainer, Hampden#hibs
@John_boyRbi8: Still a bit like a home match for the Jambos, but preferable to Glasgow. #Murrayfield
@gmcp841h: Murrayfield & change date to May 20th as I can’t make the 19th#hibs #GGTTH
@surge77451h: no debate, hampden, you could play it at medowbank if tickets were decided on home gates for the season#onlygotofinalsloyal
@Dico221h: common sense says Murrayfield but heart says Hampden. Murrayfield would get a bigger crowd#sellouttwiceover
@Hoofah1h: Murrayfield definitely
@BornJambo18743m: had this debate in 2006. SFA will never allow it as they will have to pay SRU for the use of Murrayfield. Would be good tho
@SMcQ_UK1m: The Cup Final should always be played at its traditional home (Hampden)
@mebawzaritchie20m: no point cup final at Murrayfield as both teams had barely 25.000 between them at hampden
@DoigyStylee1m: Murrayfield, I have an exam at Uni on the morning of the 19th and I would be able to go.
Where do councillors want final to be played?
Ewan Aitken Lab
Robert Aldridge LD
Eric Barry Lab
Angela Blacklock Lab
Michael Bridgman SNP
Deidre Brock SNP
Gordon Buchan C
Steve Burgess Green
Andrew Burns Lab
Ron Cairns SNP
Steve Cardownie SNP
Maureen Child Lab
Bill Cook Lab
Cammy Day Lab
Nick Elliot-Cannon SNP
Paul Godzik Lab
Norma Hart Lab
Ricky Henderson Lab
Lesley Hinds Lab
Alison Johnstone Green
Colin Keir SNP
Louise Lang LD
Gordon Mackenzie LD
Mark McInnes C
Eric Milligan Lab
Joanna Mowat C
Rob Munn SNP
Gordon Munro Lab
Alistair Paisley C
Ian Perry Lab
Alasdair Rankin SNP
Cameron Rose C
Jason Rust C
Conor Snowden LD
Iain Whyte C
Donald Wilson Lab
Norman Work SNP
Jeremy Balfour C
Jenny Dawe LD
Charles Dundas LD
Paul Edie LD
Kate MacKenzie C
Tim McKay LD
Marjorie Thomas LD
Stefan Tymkewycz SNP
Phil Wheeler LD
Allan Jackson C (“no preference”)
Stuart McIvor SNP (“Try Inverleith Park”)
Elaine Aitken C
Tom Buchanan SNP
Maggie Chapman Green
Joanna Coleman LD
George Grubb LD
Stephen Hawkins LD
Jim Lowrie LD
Marilyn MacLaren LD
Elaine Morris SNP
Gary Peacock LD