Henry McLeish says Hampden is a symbol of our national pride

Henry McLeish wants Hampden to remain the home of Scottish football. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
Henry McLeish wants Hampden to remain the home of Scottish football. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
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Henry McLeish has cautioned the Scottish Football Association against giving up their Hampden Park birthright.

The former first minister, who in 2009 was commissioned to write a wide-ranging review into Scottish football, was speaking before appearing at an event to launch his new book, Scottish Football: Requiem or Renaissance?, at the Edinburgh Book Festival today.

McLeish lamented that in the eight years since his review was published, “in certain areas we have gone backwards” in terms of governance of the game.

The SFA are considering a move away from Hampden Park, owned by Scottish League 2 club Queen’s Park, when their lease expires in 2020. McLeish interpreted this as a further erosion of the status of Scottish football’s governing body. He rejected the idea that the Scottish football team might play at Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby.

He claimed this would send out another negative message: do we really care about the national game?

“I have an old fashioned perspective about this,” he said. “Part of it is about patriotism, and Scotland as a country.

“In 1998 I sat in House of Commons for 120 hours and put the Devolution Act through. Scotland in those 20 years has assumed much greater significance as a country. There is lot of pride, a lot of patriotism, a lot of passion.

“We are a nation going forward,” he continued. “At the same time as that happened the game has declined. Maybe nationalism disappeared from the back of a football jersey into something else.

“It is more than about having concerts, and increasing takings. I think Hampden should be a symbol of national football pride. Other countries, such as Italy, do not play in a national stadium. But Hampden is hugely symbolic. I certainly would not want to move to a club set-up. That would undermine the whole issue of symbolism.

“We have to acknowledge the history,” he added. “It has hosted some of the most amazing games in the world. I would like to think we retain a national symbolic stadium for football.”

In reference to a proposed move from Hampden to Murrayfield Stadium, he added: “I have nothing against rugby, but I would be cautious in doing so (going to Murrayfield) we are not overturning something that is hugely symbolic”.