Scottish Football Deserves a National Stadium

There’s some extraordinary things happening in Scottish football, not all of them good.

For a game run on a shoestring budget and in perpetual crisis and acrimony and without a national manager, this needs to be talked about, but so we avoid the trap of pure doom-mongering the Scottish game, lets look at the positives.

First tonight the Scottish Football Supporters Association reports on their ‘Scottish Football Evaluation’. They’ve done a really novel thing and actually asked the people who are the lifeblood of the game what they think. The fans who are routinely treated with complete contempt by the governing bodies, the broadcasters and the media have actually been asked their opinion.

The results are to be announced and poured over tonight at Firhill.

This is part of a now long-running resistance campaign run by grassroots fans groups to try and salvage the game from the people who run it.

The SFSA report:

The survey, which saw over 16,000 people participate during September, was carried out by the SFSA in partnership with Professor Dr Axel Faix and Dr Joachim Lammert, two respected German sports academics from the University of Applied Science and Arts in Dortmund and the University of Leipzig. Both have significant experience in carrying out similar evaluations in Germany and on a European level.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Stakeholders are very dissatisfied with the leadership of both the SFA & SPFL across a range of activities
  • 73% believe their own club is committed to the good of football
  • 65% believe their own clubs are open and honest
  • 93% believe that Scottish football should be overseen by an independent watchdog
  • 95% of fans believe it is essential to have an independent national fans body
  • 90% feel that the Scottish Government should put pressure on football authorities to improve
  • 60.5% said that they could lose interest in football in the future
  • 32.5% attend fewer than 10 games a season
  • 24.5% said they never attend away games
  • 60.7% said they attend between just 1 and 10 away games a season
  • 92.5% say football is important to them
  • 13.5% don’t think football is more important than their other leisure activities
  • 93.8% want more supporter influence in the SPFL
  • 94.1% want more supporter influence in the SFA
  • There is little difference between the key stakeholders’ opinions (players, managers, coaches, club officials , referees and supporters) throughout the research

Unsurprisingly, there is also a growing concern about the performance of the national game, and what that reflects about the health of Scottish football as a whole.
Second Steve Clark at Kilmarnock is a breath of fresh air – and precisely what the club and the game needs – an input of fresh-thinking and ambition from outside, just as we’ve seen at Parkhead where Brendan Rodgers refuses to take on board the assumptions of built-in inferiority that is endemic in the game. Clarks start has been magnificent turning a seemingly moribund club into a team with energy and a winning mentality.

Third, and closely connected are Hibs and Aberdeen. Despite the sometimes over-the-top media cheerleading of Celtic, the fact is they have upped their game and taken it to a new level. Despite this, and with a fraction of the budget, Aberdeen and Hibs are only three and five points behind them and playing beautiful attacking football with mostly young Scottish players. Neil Lennon is the Ladbrokes Manager of the Month (Hibs have won their last four games in a  row) and if the extraordinary efforts to undermine Derek McInnes at Aberdeen are anything to go by, he’s doing great job.

But we have a problem with our football media in this country and Kris Boy’s latest elevation to pundit status is a good focus for this.

It’s a good thing to have ex-footballer’s give their view but this should be balanced by their ability to give some kind of useful insight to the listener. or reader.

Only two weeks after a bizarre outburst in which he blamed Dundee United’s recent problems for their chairmans attitude to Rangers in which he said:

“Dundee United are another club since, when you go back to the Rangers scenario, Dundee United have been in decline since then as well. It’s one of those ones where you need to be careful what you wish for. “Stephen Thompson was a big part of that. I think when you look at his club, that’s backfired on him, there’s no doubt about it.” When probed to clarify his comments, Boyd said: “The way they went about it. I feel it has been in total decline since then. They’ve went down into the Championship, they’ve struggled with Premiership players, they’re still paying the big money. “What I’m saying is, since Rangers have went down the leagues Dundee United have followed.”

This is just offensive gibberish. and begs the question why the licence fee is being used to pay him to have a platform.

Now he’s on the same programme coughing out more nonsense, this time a weird rant about Aberdeen FC whose Graeme Shinnie, Kenny McLean and Ryan Christie are all called up to the Scotland squad.

Plenty of ex professional footballers are pundits and being controversial is part of the gig. But Boyd seemed to be choking with rage and called the the uncapped players called up by Scotland  a “laughing stock”.

Now the Scotsman reports his views on switching the home of Scottish football to Murrayfield [readers may have missed the point where his views gained universal credibility].

The SFA’s lease at Hampden is due to expire in 2020. The Scottish football governing body has asked the Scottish Rugby Union to submit a proposal for holding cup finals and internationals at Murrayfield. You don’t do that unless you are serious, and the SFA is seriously skint.

At face value its an attractive proposition. It’s Scotland’s biggest stadium (67,144 to Hampden’s 52,063). It’s a stadium you can actually get to and it has acres of room around it for what the SFA and the SRU coyly call “match-day entertainment”. And its a money spinner. If the SFA can sell tickets, ands that’s a big IF, they can make more money, but there’s no real evidence they have the nous to do that.

But there’s three big reasons its a terrible idea.

The actual pitch and stadium is shaped for rugby. That means huge areas behind the goals and a huge distance between the pitch and the supporters. This takes away from the atmosphere and all the commercial glee in the eyes of Stewart Regan won’t change that.

Kris Boyd is quoted as saying of Murrayfield: “You won’t get many better surfaces than that,” ignoring the fact that, when the rugby international series starts that’s unlikely to be true.

But the main reason that moving to Murrayfield is a bad idea is it shows a tragic lack of ambition within Scottish football. If the national stadium is crap do something about it, don’t just leave.

Scottish football deserves a national stadium.

Scottish football also deserves decent pundits and commentators. It has so many problems it needs to overcome – BBC Sportsound should avoid getting rent-a-gob who can’t speak well of young promising players getting a chance in a friendly and focus instead on the charlatans who currently run the game.

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Comments (21)

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  1. Martin McEvoy says:

    England have both Twickenham and Wembley, either of which (notwithstanding Spurs temporary sojourn) are used day to day by a professional club.

    But England are very much the exception. Ireland seem to make do well with international rugby and soccer in the same stadium. Indeed they managed to put FOUR major sports into Croke Park for a period, a MUCH bigger playing area than Murrayfield, and survived.

    Wales too seem able to accommodate both soccer and rugby in a single National Stadium.

    France manage to squeeze a World Cup winning national soccer team, the national rugby team, a world class athletics stadium, Stade Francais AND Racing metro into the Stade de France.

    Let’s look at some major champions :-

    Germany doesn’t have a national stadium, it rotates international matches. But in so far as all cup finals are played at the Olimpiastadium in Berlin, they share with tenants Herta and the athletics track.

    Spain rotates internationals between Barcelona, Seville and Madrid – all of them in tenanted stadia. The Rugby team plays in a different stadium due to much more limited size requirements (though their domestic RUGBY cup final gets 35K!), but they too share a stadium with a day to day tenant.

    There’s an argument that Edinburgh is not the right place for the National soccer team given the fervour in Glasgow football. I’d argue the exact opposite – it would do the SFA and Scottish football the WORLD of good to get out from under the shadow of the old firm – they might see there’s more to football than the big two then. As for “ambition”, having two major international stadia in a country of 6-7 million, neither with serious anchor tenants (and no, Queen’s Park don’t count, wee Hampden would be much more suitable to their needs) is not ambition. It’s cock-eyed madness, and an attempt, frankly to ape England, the only other country that does it.

    And let’s be frank, having both Wembley AND Twickenham, while there are at least 4 other mega stadia in London alone, and at least another6 round the country is, in the modern day and age, ridiculous, and a figment of history not a rational policy. And an emblem, I’d suggest, of English imperial self delusion.

    and certain nothing to ape.

    1. Thanks Martin – I would be all for rotating internationals but the countries you mention all have significantly larger stadiums Barcelona (now in Catalonia) and Madrid, Seville in Spain, and Germany has significantly larger club grounds. Wales is a good example of my argument – they created a purpose built stadium (with a roof!)

      1. Martin McEvoy says:

        I would suggest Ibrox, Parkhead and Murrayfield would suffice for rotation purposes, with more minor ‘friendly’ internationals perhaps going to Aberdeen and Dundee.

        Arguably Australia has a similar issue – Canberra is the capital, but Sydney and Melbourne are both much bigger. AFAIK all their soccer, union and league internationals are played at ‘shared’ stadia. I just think the Wembley/Twickenham model is, frankly, complete bluster, and if Scotland could find a way to ‘make sense’ of the situation, they should certainly at least consider it. both Hampden (notwithstanding Glasgow 2014) and Murrayfield are hideously underused for their size and cost – The days of a glorious, and gloriously empty national stadium is coming to a close – cf the Olympic Stadium in London.

        There’s a lot of sentimental attachment, I entirely understand, but there is also a hell of an argument for selling off Hampden, buying 1/2 of Murrayfield off SRFU, investing in a makeover to make it more soccer friendly, and then making it THE National Stadium, albeit with the odd game at Ibrox and Celtic Park for the Glasgow public, while still having a few million in the SFA pocket to spend on grassroots football, and even to lend smaller professional clubs to allow proper ground upgrades. Meanwhile SRFU would still have Murrayfield, but would have a partner to share costs, and a few million in its own pocket for similar uses, including upgrades at the club venues for Glasgow and Edinburgh, and maybe even a third region.

        1. Martin I like your proposal more than I like the SFA / SRUs proposal, which was unfortunately the one we’re discussing. I’m not against Murrayfield and I’m not against a shared national stadium. I am against downgrading status and lowering aspiration to save a few bucks is more like what we are looking at. I have no faith in the competence of the leadership of the SFA to deliver, to innovate or to strategise.

      2. Martin McEvoy says:

        PS there’s lots of other good stuff to comment on in your article including the myopia of certain Rangers ‘legends’ in the media, the room for growth for the Edinburgh, Aberdeen and even Dundee clubs and the wonderful Kilmarnock revival, which I shall no doubt touch upon later 😉

        1. David Allan says:

          A bit premature on Killie revival, will be recognised as such when the home hoodoo is finally laid to rest.
          Hopefully now more likely to occur soon.

  2. R Smith says:

    As a long term member of the Tartan Army from the NE of Scotland I would vastly prefer Murrayfield. Have watched games there when Barcelona played Hearts the view is certainly not as bad as Hampden. The slope on Hampden terracing is as it was when it as significantly larger and does not make for a good viewing experience. Hampden is a nightmare to get away from.
    Murrayfield has excellent transport links, more comfortable ground, nearer to pubs and its significantly larger.
    However if we have got to stay in Glasgow then go to Parkhead, again a far better stadium and shorter walking distance into Glasgow centre.

  3. Ewan Macintyre says:

    What a great opportunity to move the national football stadium to the Scottish capital!

  4. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    Has football become the National Religion? Hope not and they can keep their greedy eyes off Murrayfield!!!!

  5. Alister Rutherford says:

    Perhaps Bella deserves decent pundits. “Scottish football deserves a national stadium.” Why? Most countries seem to manage quite well without one.

    1. Well we have one at the moment Alister – and as I mention below Spain, Catalonia, Germany and France all have much arguer club grounds to rotate around.

  6. George McConnachie says:

    In terms of Murrayfield as an option for hosting the national team, I don’t find the arguments against this put forward above to be at all convincing.

    The first point, about the dimensions of Murrayfield don’t really hold up for me. Yes, there’s space around the outside of the pitch but this is much, much less of an issue than at Hampden. Add to the fact that Murrayfield has much steeper stands all around and you have a far superior viewing experience. It may not be the Camp Nou, the Bernabeu or the Westfalenstadion but it’s an excellent stadium with first class facilities.

    Regarding the playing surface, the issue of the rugby season is brought up. What’s the evidence for this being a hindrance? How many times will Murrayfield be used for rugby over the course of the year? And how many internationals do Scotland host annually that require a 50k plus stadium?

    Finally, what can we realistically do to Hampden short of knocking it down and rebuilding it? Are there any options here? I haven’t heard any but would be keen to hear them as it would be a shame to leave the home of the national team without considering each thoroughly. The stands along the touchline are fine but sitting behind either goal is a horrible place to watch the game from. Hard to see how this can be fixed simply since the stadium is one big oval.

    In summary, I think the Murrayfield option would have to be looked at carefully in terms of the pros and cons but I don’t think it should be ruled out without proper evaluation that goes beyond the quickfire statements in the article.

  7. Wee Archie Gemmill says:

    Those are *terrible* arguments against Murrayfield.

    For a start it’s the RIGHT shape for football – rectangular, not oval like Hampden. The distances from the stands to the touchlines at Hampden are an absolute joke on three sides – if you’re at the back of the East or West stands you’re almost an entire pitch-length from the near goal-line. Just about every seat at Murrayfield is closer to the action than its Hampden equivalent, and the steeper terracing affords a far better view to boot, on top of all the other advantages you mention.

    Murrayfield copes fine with the busy schedule of the Six Nations, so why should the playing surface be worse than a club football ground that gets used on average about every 12 days? How many internationals do Scotland play in February anyway?

    And as for “If the national stadium is crap do something about it, don’t just leave”, what is it you’re proposing and where are you finding the enormous sums of money required?

    The fact is that we’re over-supplied with stadia, not under-supplied. Murrayfield, Parkhead and arguably Ibrox are all perfectly adequate for big football matches and there are plenty grounds that can handle smaller matches and friendlies. Hampden is a white elephant whose time is past, and which is locking up a huge amount of dead money that could do Scottish football a world of good.

  8. Iain MacEchern says:

    With the 4 teams in Glasgow, Celtic, Rangers, Partick Thistle and Queens Park, why not reduce the number of stadiums to 2. With two of the aforementioned teams playing at one, and the other two teams playing at the other stadium. This would help reduce overheads. With both stadiums sharing international matches. Cup finals and semi final game locations would be chosen to minimise any advantage they any particular team.

  9. john young says:

    I wouldn,t trust anything the SFA are involved with.

  10. Tom Parkhill says:

    Scotland doesn’t need to spend money on a national stadium, but certainly Hampden is inadequate (and I say that reluctantly, as I was brought up in Aikenhead Road and attended loads of games there in the 60’s and 70’s). I agree with the suggestion of rotation, it works in Italy, Germany, and to an extent in France and Spain. Celtic Park and Ibrox will both be good venues in Glasgow, with Easter Road, Tynecastle, Aberdeen, etc.

    Scottish football doesn’t need to spend money on a national stadium, it needs to spend money on general football infrastructure. If we want to look at problems, look at the fact that the SPL (and predecessor) has not been won by a team outwith Celtic and Rangers since 1985. How we address that, God knows.

  11. Scott says:

    Great piece though I think a section in the middle may be missing? To me, the most surprising thing about Kris Boyd’s comments is that he managed not to use the phrase “it’s just part ‘n’ parcel ae fitba”.

    I have just recently stopped going to Scotland games, as among other things, I can’t be bothered with the travel (I live in Fife). A shared stadium in Scotland’s capital would suit me but I would emphasise the word ‘shared’. I don’t believe that football as a tenant of rugby is a long term solution, practical though it may be.

    1. Yeah that’s one of there aspect that bothers me Scott – the idea that football would just be an add-on to the rugby stadium is totally different from a purpose built ground or a tradition built up over time. This looks just like a cost-cutting measure

  12. SleepingDog says:

    Is there any interest in regional (sub-national) teams, like they have in some countries? They might play in an annual league, acting either as formal feeders for the national teams, or perhaps differently composed (who knows, maybe desegregated). A ground-up solution to a national stadium problem might then present itself. Fife vs Highlands+Islands kind of thing.

  13. David Allan says:

    The dull and boring ramblings of Regan and others at the helm of Scottish Football lack any real vision or ambition for a future home for our nation’s national game.

    Time to widen the discussion and get the decision made to finally demolish Hampden and move on !

    The opportunity to build a new National Stadium on the site of the former Ravenscraig Complex was mooted at the time when the wrong decision was made to upgrade Old Hampden. Had that option been explored further we could have had a “Millenium Stadium” good enough for Wales here in Central Scotland.

    Easy access for fans from all over the country excellent road and rail links to east and west. Motherwell FC may hopefully even have become a tenant!

    It’s time for the Scottish Gov’t to get involved and help infuse some enthusiasm for supporting a 21st Century home for Scottish Football. One we can be proud off for generation to come.

    Edinburgh can keep Rugby.

    I wonder what Police Scotland think of the proposals. Segregating fans at Murrayfield before or after match would be no easy task. Haymarket Station! let’s get serious.

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