Long time readers will know I’m in the Fergus camp when it comes to the Hampden. We wasted circa £60m on a stadium that isn’t very good and isn’t needed. We should have used the cash to work with teams around Scotland to have a single 35,000 – 40,000 seat stadium in Edinburgh, a single 20,000 seat stadium in Dundee, a 25,000 – 30,000 seat stadium in Aberdeen and a decent 15,000 seat stadium in Ayr or Kilmarnock. That would have allowed the national team to tour, had cup finals and semis in appropriately sized neutral venues AND prevented 20yrs of financial run of our games top flight. With the money now spent across these stadia that opportunity has gone, but the opportunity to use the value of Hampden to enhance our game is not.
Scottish football is a mid 20th century business model, in late 20th century stadia operating in the 21st century. When people discuss attendances at places like Inverness I hear lots of debate about many things, but well down the list is “the stadium is utter crap.” Surely spectator facilities must come first? The stadia, especially the modern ones, are dreadful – purely functional and not fit for the 21st century. I’ve had this discussion with people in the game and found the responses ludicrous “it was good enough for me” – I’m not talking about you ya numpty, you already go. I’m talking about getting people who don’t or rarely go to attend!
The crux of the problem is the cost of attending and value for money. We don’t have the mix right. The issue with this however is the cost of running full-time football is high and as we have seen, even league 1 & 2 down south can compete with our top flight salaries below Celtic. So if basic costs are high how do we create greater value for money? By improving the match-day experience, by providing 21st century facilities.
The problem we have is the last infrastructure upgrade 20+ years ago almost bankrupted our game. This is where Hampden comes in.
All paying supporters I know agree that the stadium is very poor. Outwith the main stand facilities are dreadful. First 10 rows and you have no view, back 10 rows and you need binoculars… I could go on. Then there is the simple aspect of it being only the 3rd best stadium in Glasgow. The ONLY argument I have heard is the need for a neutral venue when Celtic meet the current version of Rangers, but that’s nonsense as it’s not even big enough for that. There is no reason why the venue for the first encounter between these sides couldn’t be determined by a toss of coin and thereafter alternate. We know it’s poor but it could still provide a legacy.
I could be wrong, but from a rough calculation, Hampden sits on 30 – 35 acres of land. All for residential it get up to £1m per acre. Taking into account demolition costs, that provides a pot of circa £30m. With the economic value football adds to the Scottish economy I would be asking the government to match fund. That would provide a pot of £60m. I would then make this an infrastructure development pot for the Scottish game.
With an infrastructure fund, I would have clubs bid for FREE grant for infrastructure funding and as part of the grant application there must be a demonstrable improvement in the spectator experience as a result. From coffee shops to better roofing, it should be all about the fans. For me I would have large screens as an essential part but not to just show the game as we have but really add to the spectator experience. Show goals AS THEY COME IN from around Scottish football. If it’s a midweek and there’s a big game on in Europe or down south, show that on the screens. Provide real added value for those attending the game. Give those at the game a BETTER experience than the armchair fan. And in the event that a grant aided club moves, unless the enhancement is in the new stadium then the grant would be repayable.
You may be asking why, with priorities like schools and hospitals government money should come into this – because football enhances our GDP and it’s about getting our fair share back. Despite only hearing and reading negatives about our game, the Glasgow economy is better off for Celtic’s existence. For example how much was generated to the Glasgow economy by the Celtic v Inter game? Whilst intuitively I know it did, unfortunately I don’t know how much because the SFA and SPFL are not positive lobbyers for our game. Whilst I know that every house built generates 2.64 full time jobs and every £1 spent on construction generates £2.84 to GDP there are no similar stats (and I’ve asked) about football.
Hampden has had its day. Whilst it is now a poor relation of the world’s great grounds it can still provide some real added benefit to our game. Sell it off and let its legacy be an environment where the fans of tomorrow come and are enthralled by football as we were. Let Hampden Provide A Legacy.