After deciding to stay at Hampden, the SFA must radically improve the stadium – and the national side.
It would have been a sad day if Scotland was never to have heard the once famous “Hampden Roar” again.
The Scottish Football Association decided yesterday that the historic home of the national game – Hampden Park in Glasgow – will remain its future home, abandoning the idea of moving to the cauldron of rugby that is Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh.
The latter may be a bigger and better arena and the former a shadow of its former self, but the proposed move would have been a big step.
With the men’s national side in the doldrums after failing to qualify for a major tournament for 20 years – and the women only recently securing a place at the World Cup for the first time – it would have sent the message that football is no longer as important as it once was. Football would have become a tenant of rugby union. In addition, Scotland would have lost one of its four stadiums capable of holding crowds of more than 50,000.
Instead, the SFA will now buy out Hampden’s current owners Queen’s Park and consult with fans about making the stadium “the beating heart of Scottish football”, a place that is “exciting and fan-friendly”. Clearly work needs to be done. Hampden itself should be improved to help amplify the sound of the famously vocal Tartan Army and better transport links are required, but we also need to find ways of creating better footballers so that fans can dare to dream again of Scotland as “the greatest football team”.
One possible source of inspiration could be a bid to jointly host the 2030 World Cup with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A redeveloped Hampden, along with Ibrox, Celtic Park and Murrayfield, could see Scotland play a major role if that bid was to be successful.
“If we can bring a World Cup here ... that could be a massive opportunity for us,” SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell said after the decision to stay at Hampden was taken.
World Cup host always seem to perform better than expected as Russia did earlier this year and South Korea did in 2002. If Scotland could achieve anything like their success, the nation would be enthralled, young boys and girls across the country would be out kicking a ball about and putting jumpers down for goalposts, computer games forgotten.
The decision to stay at Hampden may be more heart than head, but if the national game is to be saved, passion will be required.