Decision time for Scottish FA: will it be Hampden or Murrayfield?

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The Scottish FA board were last night contemplating whether to retain Hampden Park as the national football stadium or take the radical decision to move to Murrayfield, home of Scottish rugby.

Board members visited both Murrayfield and Hampden yesterday and will vote today having heard final presentations by the competing arenas.

Hampden Park. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS

Hampden Park. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS

The SFA’s lease at Hampden with owners Queen’s Park expires in 2020 and the board have been examining a bid from Scottish Rugby that would see international matches and major cup finals moved to Edinburgh.

Final pitches to the board were made by Peter Dallas, managing director of Hampden Park Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary that runs the stadium, and Scottish Rugby’s chief operating officer, Dominic McKay, pictured.

A delay to the decision which will have huge ramifications throughout the game and beyond is believed to centre around the SFA’s insistence that Queen’s Park must agree to sell them Hampden in order that it is retained as a football venue. The two parties are believed to be a considerable distance apart in their valuation of the 52,000-capacity ground and the campus around it, which includes Lesser Hampden where it is expected Queen’s Park would decant.

The SFA is understood to have offered £2 million for Hampden but Queen’s Park are looking for around £6m. Scotland’s oldest club are at the mercy of the SFA, though, in respect of facing a £12m repayment to the National Lottery should Hampden lose its status as national football stadium. The Lottery funds were secured when the ground was redeveloped at a cost of £53m in the 1990s.

BT Murrayfield is bidding to host football internationals. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU

BT Murrayfield is bidding to host football internationals. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU

The SRU’s case for Murrayfield has been considered to have been made impressively and offers genuine commercial opportunities with recognition that the 67,000-capacity Edinburgh stadium is patently superior to the storied old, but antiquated, Glasgow ground. But there is understood to be reluctance among some SFA board members about taking the ‘nuclear option’ of obliterating Hampden and its place in the historical fabric of Scottish football.

One significant stumbling block is the Scottish Police Federation’s disquiet over the security issues which could arise at Murrayfield in the event of a Celtic-Rangers cup tie, with both sets of supporters taking the same routes into the arena. Another is the likelihood that a move away from Hampden would signal the death knell for Scotland’s oldest club, while the loss of a ‘footballing home’ is considered to be unwelcome. However, there is realism and understanding that if Hampden is retained, it must be brought up to date. Attracting the necessary £50m investment required remains an issue that those in the corridors of power have as yet found no way to resolve.