Queen’s Park will look to an uncertain future on Wednesday at what looks set to be a stormy members’ meeting with even the club’s prized amateur status under threat.
While what becomes of the 151-year-old Scottish club – the nation’s oldest – may have seemed something of an afterthought amid the hype surrounding Hampden’s future as the national football stadium, but for Queen’s Park things will never be the same.
Club president Gerry Crawley, pictured, is the man tasked with leading them at a time when how they operate – from playing venue to revenue generation and recruiting players – will need a massive overhaul.
Hamstrung by potential liabilities incurred 20 years ago as part of a rescue package following the redevelopment of Hampden, Queen’s agreed to sell their 115-year-old ground to the SFA for a knockdown price of £5 million.
The Spiders looked set to have to pay back approximately £12m of National Lottery finding if the SFA had moved to Edinburgh at the end of their present lease in 2020 as well as reimburse £5m to debenture holders.
The Lottery liability disappears in 2040 and what is a good deal for the S FA has left the members of Queen’s Park with a feeling that a gun was being held to their heads.
When the club was formed in 1867, amateur football ruled the day and they attracted huge, money-spinning crowds to Hampden.
When the professional game took hold, renting Hampden out for glamour games became the business model for Queen’s until the ill-fated redevelopment project in the 1990s. As part of the rescue package for that, and to bring Queen’s Park out of a short period of administration, the Scottish FA took over the day-to-day running of the ground on a 20-year lease.
Queen’s continued to own Hampden and played their first team matches there and they were paid an index linked annual rental of £200,000 plus £600,000 towards debt repayment.
The debts were paid off in 2014 with the rental now totalling over £300,000 – the main item in the credit column for the club. That rental now has only two years to go, with a substantial chunk of the £5m they will receive for their ground needing to be invested in the upgrade of what the SFA called “Queen’s Park’s new registered licensed ground for all its matches” – Lesser Hampden.
Crawley would not be drawn on what conditions are attached to the use of the ground, saying only: “I want to speak to the members first of all. We have stuck by the codes of confidentiality that surrounded our discussions with the Scottish FA and the members have to hear the finer details from us.”
Queen’s have been prolific at producing their own players since they were formed, including newly-appointed Scotland captain Andrew Robertson.
If that well of talent dries up Queen’s could be faced with their biggest moral challenge as their amateur status may have to be looked at to ensure they remain competitive in senior football.
The club has long augmented the home-grown talent by attracting players from the junior, amateur and professional ranks using the lure of playing at Hampden.
That lure will be gone in two years and what was once an unthinkable prospect could be staring Queen’s in the face.