Scotland’s World Cup qualifier with Slovakia, a must-win game in the country’s hopes of making it to Russia 2018, is unlikely to sell out.
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With just over 24 hours remaining before kick-off, around 45,000 of the 50,000+ tickets available have been sold.
The Tartan Army are famous for their passionate support of the national side, despite the many trials and tribulations they’ve been through in recent years, so why have some fans decided against attending this crucial match? We look at the reasons.
Supporters throughout British football have been complaining about the rising cost of ticket prices for a number of years now, with Scotland fans particularly miffed.
The cheapest briefs on sale will set back supporters £30, while £40 is being demanded for seats in both the north and south stands, which generally offer the best views of the entire pitch.
These prices might have been accepted if the team was playing well. However, it’s been a long-time since going to watch Scotland was a consistently pleasurable activity. For many it’s a good day out with 90 minutes of self-inflicted pain thrown into proceedings.
Instead of freezing prices until Scotland achieve some relative success - say, actually qualifying for a tournament - the SFA chose instead to introduce a hike for the Euro 2016 campaign, and they’ve not come down despite the inability of the national squad to reverse the trend.
Day of the match
While we all love games under the floodlights, a midweek contest in early October is far from ideal for those who have work on both of the day of the match and the morning after.
Then there’s the supporters who travel from outside the central belt to watch the Tartan Army. Even those making their way from as close as Kirkcaldy, for example, are at an extreme disadvantage. The last train leaves Glasgow at 10pm, just 25 minutes after the full-time whistle. To see the match and make their way home, they’d likely have to leave before the full-time whistle, which nobody wants to do if the game is still in the balance.
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While supporters have been familiar with Hampden Park’s problems for many years, such issues are accentuated when the team struggles and tickets cost an arm and a leg.
Scotland playing away from the national stadium for a pair of Euro 2016 qualifiers hardly improved public opinion of the old ground. The hosts secured a pair of 1-0 victories over Georgia and the Republic of Ireland in front of atmospheric conditions at both Ibrox and Celtic Park, even though the former was well short of being a sell-out itself.
If you’re unfortunate enough to be seated behind the goals at Hampden, regardless of whether you’re in row 1 or row 30, your view of the match will hardly seem worth the cost of the ticket, regardless of result.
These aforementioned problems existed two years ago when Scotland took on Poland’s in a similarly crucial match in the penultimate round of qualification fixtures for Euro 2016, and yet the Thursday night game was a sell-out. So what’s changed in the time since?
The road to Euro 2016 was supposed to be different. After making a strong start under Gordon Strachan, following on from some hopeful signs the previous qualification campaign, it seemed like Scotland were finally going to get over the hump and actually make it back to a major tournament. Then Robert Lewandowksi netted four minutes into injury-time and hopes were dashed once more.
The hangover lasted into the current campaign, as evident by disappointing results against Lithuania and Slovakia in the opening three games. The 3-0 defeat against England had everyone writing off the nation’s chances before the first round of fixtures had even been played.
Despite results improving drastically since, there’s always been a feeling that Scotland are fighting an uphill battle. Few truly believe we can end the campaign on an unbeaten run which includes six wins from seven, and even fewer believing we can then take that form and use it to dispatch whichever side we meet in the play-offs.
The match is live on Sky Sports. Again, it’s a potential problem which has existed for a while, but the indifferent fan is much more likely to watch from the comfort of his own home, or nip down to the local pub, if he doesn’t feel particularly emotive about the game in question.