Scotland's record football attendances

TO THE foreign observer thumbing through a tome of soccer statistics it must provide a great source of bafflement to see one tiny nation consistently top the podium for record attendances.

Celtic v Leeds in the semi-final of the European Cup at Hampden in April 1970 - John Hughes beats Jackie Charlton. The attendance of 136,505 remains a record for the competition. Picture: TSPL

Since the formation of the Scottish Football Association in 1872, this wee country has been heids over studs for the beautiful game.

Despite our often miserable climate, the Scottish people embraced football and began to consume it obsessively, and, at one point, Glasgow had the three largest football stadiums on the planet.

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The most substantial of those three, Hampden Park, was essentially designed to accommodate as many spectators as possible whilst offering precisely zero cover from the elements.

Scotland v England at Hampden, April 1908. Picture: Contributed

It’s estimated that the peak capacity of its huge terraces exceeded 180,000, and whenever the big games came around, Scotland’s bunnet-clad hoi polloi would occupy almost every square inch of them, managing to match and even exceed the immense attendances set by our noisy neighbours south of the border.

In short, us Scots went fitba’ daft, and we’ve got the stats to prove it.

Starting with the earliest first, we take a journey deep into the archives and shine a light on ten of Scottish football’s most notable record gates. A healthy number of these records still stand today as Scottish, British, European and world records.

Scotland 1-1 England | 4 April 1908 | British Home Championships | Hampden Park, Glasgow | Attendance: 121,452

A sea of humanity attempts to enter Hampden Park for the 1937 Home Championships tie between Scotland and England. The attendance of 149,415 is a European record for an international match. Picture: Contributed.

Scotland and the Auld Enemy shared the spoils in this hotly-contested encounter at Hampden Park where an incredible 121,452 souls passed through the gates. A new world record was set in the process. The sheen of this achievement was swiftly removed, however, as news began to filter through that scores of spectators had been badly crushed and injured, as the Dundee Courier reported at the time: “Apart from the great crush, many were injured on the head, as spectators in ruthless and cruel fashion threw stones and empty bottles at those they regarded as intruding on the general view. As was to be expected, cut heads were numerous.”

Hampden Park would go on to beat its own world attendance record four more times, the last occasion coming in 1937.

Queen’s Park 0-1 Rangers
18 January 1930
Scottish Cup first round
Hampden Park, Glasgow
Attendance: 95,722

An astonishing 95,722 were present to witness Rangers narrowly edge Queen’s Park on their home turf in what was described as a “hum-drum” affair. What’s extraordinary about this huge attendance is not that it remains a world record crowd for a match involving an amateur team - though that is remarkable enough - but the fact that it occurred in the first round of the cup. Just let that sink in for a moment. These days Queen’s Park are content with attracting 1% of the crowds which cheered them on less than a century ago, but it’s still an impressive record to own. This game is also sadly notable for the death of two fans, one, George Hodge, 66, who died after a heart attack, and another, William Kennedy, 64, who perished after being crushed in the immense crowd.

Mounted police keep an eye on the crowds at the Edinburgh derby in January 1950 at Easter Road. A record attendance of more than 65,000 fans saw Hearts beat Hibs by two goals to one. Picture: Evening News

Scotland 3-1 England
17 April 1937
British Home Championships
Hampden Park, Glasgow
Attendance: 149,415

The Hampden Roar was in full flow as an astonishing 149,415 crammed into Hampden to cheer Scotland on to a 3-1 victory over England. The attendance set a new world record, which even today remains a European record for an international match. An estimated 70,000 were left locked outside the ground, and had Hampden been big enough to accommodate them all, perhaps we would have seen an attendance figure that would never have been surpassed. As it happens, the record was eventually beaten during the 1950 World Cup, when a string of games at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã welcomed crowds approaching 200,000. Since it was a Scot, Archie McLean, who famously introduced football to the Brazilians, we’ve only ourselves to blame.

Celtic 2-1 Aberdeen
24 April 1937
Scottish Cup Final
Hampden Park, Glasgow
Attendance: 147,365

Amazingly, just seven days had passed since Scotland and England battled it out in front of the world’s largest ever crowd when Celtic and Aberdeen set a new record of their own. The Scottish Cup Final of 1937 witnessed what is still a record for a national cup final AND the largest ever attendance for a domestic match in Europe. Not bad going. Similarly to the match from the week before, another 30,000 people were reportedly locked outside the ground. Celtic and Scotland player Jimmy Delaney featured both in this game and versus England the week before, an interesting claim to fame.

European Cup at Hampden 18th May 1960. Real Madrid v Eintracht Frankfurt. Ferenc Puskas scores from an acute angle to make the score 3-1. Attendance: 127,621. Picture: TSPL

You can watch a short clip from this match here.

Rangers 2-1 Celtic
2 January 1939
Scottish League Division One
Ibrox Park, Glasgow
Attendance: 118,567

A whopping 118,567 piled into Ibrox on 2 January 1939 to see Rangers edge Celtic 2-1. Played on the second day of the month as the first had fallen on a Sunday, the Ne’erday gate is the all-time record for a British league match. This game was also the final meeting between the two great Glasgow rivals before the start of the Second World War. Despite the large crowd, a half-time charity collection was described as being “disappointly low”. Packed in like sardines, many of the spectators had been too restricted to dip into their pockets. The attendance is the highest ever recorded at Ibrox, Parkhead’s biggest crowd was 92,975 for the New Year’s Day game played the year before.

Rangers 1-0 Hibernian
27 March 1948
Scottish Cup Semi-Final
Hampden Park, Glasgow
Attendance: 143,750

Despite the good weather on 27 March 1948 resulting in a mass exodus of Glaswegians towards the Clyde Coast, the streets of Mount Florida were anything but deserted. A jaw-dropping 143,750 showed up at Hampden Park that day to witness eventual champions Rangers defeat Hibernian by one goal to nil. At Central Station many of the crowd were forced on to the track by the pressure of those behind them, though thankfully no serious injuries were reported. The bumper attendance stands to this day as a cup record for a non-final match.

Hibernian 1-2 Heart of Midlothian
2 January 1950
Scottish League Division One
Easter Road, Edinburgh
Attendance: 65,860

Saturday 26th April 1969 - the Old Firm Scottish Cup final between Celtic and Rangers in front of a Hampden crowd of 133,000. Celtic won 4-0. The trainer and referee attend to Celtic captain Billy McNeill after an unidentified injury. Picture: TSPL

With Hibs and Hearts both flying high in the league (they finished the season 2nd and 3rd respectively), a healthy turn-out was expected for the 1950 Ne’erday game at Easter Road. The supporters did not disappoint as 65,860 passed the turnstiles to watch Hearts notch up a 2-1 win. While the attendance is markedly lower than the world records set at Hampden, Ibrox and Celtic Park over the years, the 1950 Edinburgh Derby remains the biggest ever crowd for a game played outside of Glasgow. The post-war period was a golden age for football in Edinburgh, as Hibs won three league championships with their Famous Five forward line, while Hearts won several major trophies with their Terrible Trio in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Real Madrid 7-3 Eintracht Frankfurt
18 May 1960
European Cup Final
Hampden Park, Glasgow
Attendance: 127,621

In 1960 a staggering 127,621 (mostly Glasgwegian) spectators crammed on to Hampden’s slopes to witness one of the most memorable European Cup Finals of all time, as Real Madrid ruthlessly demolished Eintracht Frankfurt by seven goals to three. This was only the fifth European Cup Final in history, and Real Madrid, bolstered by legends such as Ferenc Puskás and Alfredo Di Stéfano, had devoured them all. The attendance is an all-time record for a European Cup Final.

The following year, Eintracht Frankfurt returned to Hampden as guests for a friendly match against Rangers. 104,500 attended making it a British record for a non-competitive match. The Germans had been invited for the official opening of Hampden’s new £60,000 floodlight system, but ended up entering the record books for attendance once more.

You can watch a short clip from this match here.

Celtic 2-1 Rangers
23 October 1965
Scottish League Cup Final
Hampden Park, Glasgow
Attendance: 107,609

Two cool penalties from Celtic talisman John Hughes brought the League Cup back to the East End of Glasgow for the first time in eight seasons. Their opponents Rangers had defeated Celtic in the 1964 final by the same scoreline, but now it was the turn of Jock Stein’s men. The Hoops emerged victorious in front of an audience of 107,609, an all-time record attendance for a British league cup final.

Celtic 4-0 Rangers
26 April 1969
Scottish Cup Final
Hampden Park, Glasgow
Attendance: 132,870

The immense pulling power of the ‘Old Firm’ peaked on the afternoon of 26 April 1969 as an earth-shattering 132,870 souls poured into Hampden Park for the Scottish Cup Final. The biggest Old Firm crowd of all-time watched on as Jock Stein’s Lisbon Lion-era Celtic ran riot, beating their bitter city rivals to the coveted trophy by four goals to nil.

Celtic 2-1 Leeds United
15 April 1970
European Cup Semi-Final (2nd Leg)
Hampden Park, Glasgow
Attendance: 136,505

Dubbed by the media as the ‘Battle of Britain’, Don Revie’s all-conquering Leeds United had been tipped as hot favourites, but hadn’t banked on a certain Jimmy Johnstone playing the game of his life, nor did they expect such a colossal ‘twelfth man’. Recalling the scenes on the Hampden Park terraces that night, Celtic’s Bobby Lennox described it as “the biggest sea of faces I have ever seen”. Celtic were leading 1-0 from the first leg at Elland Road, but Leeds managed to draw the scores level just 14 minutes into the return game through a 30-yard screamer from Billy Bremner, who said the deathly silence in the wake of his goal going in had been “intimidating”. In the second half, the opposition was torn to shreds by an on-fire Jinky Johnstone, who mercilessly put Leeds’ full-backs Terry Cooper and ‘hard man’ Norman Hunter to the sword on several occasions; something Cooper was man enough to admit himself: “I couldn’t get near him! I still have nightmares. I reckon I had good anticipation, but I could do nothing to take the ball off Johnstone.”

An almighty 136,505 turned up for this historic tie, making it the biggest attendance for a European Cup match of all time and a record in continental competition as a whole.

Since 1970

Hampden’s capacity has been cut drastically since Celtic’s 3-1 aggregate victory over Leeds Utd. It was first reduced for safety reasons in the mid-1970s to 85,000. Then, in the wake of the 1989 Hillsborough Stadium Disaster and subsequent Taylor Report, the UK government decided that no standing accommadation should be permitted in any major British stadia. As a result, the ageing terraces at Scotland’s largest grounds were swept away, seats installed and their capacities greatly reduced.

Today, Hampden Park is all-seater and holds precisely 52,063, less than a third of its peak capacity.

While it’s a pity that the ground can never again experience the mammoth attendances of yesteryear, the Tartan Army just needs to roar that wee bit louder to offset the difference.

Hampden Park’s record attendances in full (data sourced from the official Hampden website):

1904: Scottish Cup Final 64,472

First final at third Hampden Park.

1906: Scotland V England 102,741

First six-figure attendance for any game in Scotland.

1908: Scotland V England 121,452

World-record attendance at that time.

1912: Scotland V England 127,307

World-record attendance at that time.

1925: Celtic V Rangers (Scottish Cup Semi-Final) 101,714

First six-figure crowd for a domestic club game in Scotland.

1928: Celtic V Rangers (Scottish Cup Final) 118,115

Record crowd for a domestic match in Scotland at that time.

1930: Queen’s Park V Rangers 95,722

World-record crowd for a match involving an amateur team.

1931: Scotland V England 129,810

World-record attendance at that time.

1933: Scotland V England 136,259

World-record attendance at that time.

1937: Celtic V Aberdeen (Scottish Cup Final) 147,365

World-record attendance for a national cup final. Still the largest attendance for a domestic match in Europe.

1937: Scotland V England 147,415

All time record for a European international match.

1944: Scotland V England 133,000

Record wartime attendance in the UK.

1946: Scotland V England 139,468

Record attendance for an unofficial international.

1948: Rangers V Hibs (Scottish Cup Semi-Final) 143,750

Record attendance for a non-final match.

1948: Rangers V Morton (Scottish Cup Final & Replay) 129,176 & 133,570

Largest combined attendance for a final plus replay.

1951: Petershill V Irvine Meadow (Scottish Junior Cup) 77,650

British record attendance for a match between two junior sides.

1954: Scotland V Hungary 113,056

Largest crowd ever for a match involving Hungary.

1960: Real Madrid V Eintracht Frankfurt 127,621

Record attendance for a European Cup Final (Champions League)

1963: Rangers V Morton (League Cup Final) 105,907

First six-figure crowd for a League Cup Final.

1965: Celtic V Rangers (League Cup Final) 107,609

All time record attendance for a British League Cup Final.

1970: Celtic V Leeds United (European Cup Semi-Final) 136,505

All time record attendance for a European Cup match.

1973: Rangers V Celtic (Scottish Cup) 122,714

Last 100,000+ crowd for any football match in the United Kingdom.

Scotland v England at Hampden, April 1908. Picture: Contributed
A sea of humanity attempts to enter Hampden Park for the 1937 Home Championships tie between Scotland and England. The attendance of 149,415 is a European record for an international match. Picture: Contributed.
Mounted police keep an eye on the crowds at the Edinburgh derby in January 1950 at Easter Road. A record attendance of more than 65,000 fans saw Hearts beat Hibs by two goals to one. Picture: Evening News
European Cup at Hampden 18th May 1960. Real Madrid v Eintracht Frankfurt. Ferenc Puskas scores from an acute angle to make the score 3-1. Attendance: 127,621. Picture: TSPL
Saturday 26th April 1969 - the Old Firm Scottish Cup final between Celtic and Rangers in front of a Hampden crowd of 133,000. Celtic won 4-0. The trainer and referee attend to Celtic captain Billy McNeill after an unidentified injury. Picture: TSPL