I Would Rather Not Go Back To The Old House

By The Way - Weekly Columns

ByTheMinCeltic

I read a well-written, interesting but ultimately totally flawed article on one of the other Celtic blog sites last week on the future of Hampden Park. It made me think again about my own stated objection to the ongoing use of the crumbling wreck of a football stadium for anything that might involve Celtic, and having thought fully about the options, I'm still 100% convinced that nothing short of full demolition is appropriate for the dump. My history with Hampden goes back nearly 40 years, when my uncle dragged me along to see Ally MacLeod's impending World Cup winners going round the place on an open-top bus as a send-off before the ill-fated Argentina '78 campaign. With hindsight, it was a prophetic moment for me. The place even then was falling to bits, vast in scale but demonstrating a paucity of comfort unsurpassed by any stadium I'd seen before or since. I hated the place. I remember coming back for a couple of Scotland games the following year with the same sadistic uncle and being thoroughly miserable standing in the pishing rain with piss running down the steps and a carpet of crushed cans of McEwan's Lager underfoot. It was a thoroughly depressing introduction to the National Stadium. My first forays to Hampden with Celtic were both successful: the 1980 Cup Final (I wasn't on the pitch, honest!) and the monsoon-conditions 1982 League Cup Final, both narrow but immensely satisfying wins over The Artisans Formerly Known as Rangers. From then on in it was fairly mixed: for every '85 McGarvey winner, there was an '84 Strachan dive; for every '88 McAvennie miracle, there was a '86 Syme red card farce. I came to regard visits to Hampden as a hit-and-miss thing, the good thing about supporting the Celtic is obviously that the sheer volume of visits you make there almost guarantees there will be highs as well as lows, and that continues to be the case even now, but despite the joy you'd take from those great times, it was always a feeling of it being despite the venue, not because of it. The downsides of Hampden are plentiful and well-documented: the sightlines, the pricing, the catering, the toilets, the bolted-on seats on old terracing, the lack of imagination in architecture, the obvious investment in one part of the stadium to the detriment to the rest of it, the location, the transport links, the parking...I really could go on and on. Anyone who looks at the comparative merits of Murrayfield and Hampden and can seriously come up with a supportable rationale for the latter over the former that isn't simply "Aye, but, you can't go to football in Edinburgh..." needs medical help. There really is zero comparison between the two. I genuinely can't see how anyone who's been to both could pick Hampden ahead of Murrayfield. From a Celtic perspective, and for sheer devilment purposes, I'd love to see us really get it up the SFA by advocating Murrayfield ahead of Hampden, particularly if the rumours of a £2m purchase ring true. In those circumstances I'd rather we bought it ourselves, evicted the SFA and ground-shared our Development & Women's teams there with Queens Park than let those self-interested clownshoe committee halfwits continue on their gravy train in any way shape or form. If not, as a minimum we should be looking to get the SPFL to move the League Cup showpiece games elsewhere and get out of the clutches of that Southside shitehole. If the SFA gave a monkeys about Scottish football they'd be looking to share Internationals and Cup Semi-Finals amongst their member clubs (note: not Rangers & Celtic: play the games involving each at Murrayfield, play the rest in Edinburgh or Dundee at appropriately sized venues or at Murrayfield if thats what the clubs involved want). They don't though: they continue to hide behind 'tradition' and 'the way it's always been' rather than embrace a future where a country Scotland's size and demographic dispersal doesn't require a two-tier quality of National Stadia at opposite ends of the M8. Deep down, nobody likes going to Hampden: it has that slightly pish-stained aura of former grandeur, the new stand has nice escalators and that, but ultimately it's a decrepit cesspit of a stadium about 30-40 years past it's effective lifespan. Get us out of there as soon as we can, share the financial benefits of Scottish football (and yes, they are considerable) across the country, and let Edinburgh have a go at the showpiece Finals for a while. Leave the car behind, take advantage of the integrated transport links into Murrayfield, get rocking up to the Roseburn Bar (tell them you're with your family- worked for me last time I didn't get in!) and enjoy us pumping whatever team fancies their chances against us. You know it makes sense.

Alan Reid

The problem with using Murrayfield and then spreading the rest of the games around the country - Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen - is the appropriate capacity issue. You would be restricted to choosing between Murrayfield and 67,500 seats or the 20,000 or so available at Tynecastle, Easter Road, Pittodrie. For that option to work, you would really need a stadium somewhere in Scotland with a capacity of 35,000 or so. As an egg chaser as well as a Celtic fan, I've been to Murrayfield many times over the last 25 years and there are many aspects I like about it, not least the turnstiles not being built into the stands so after getting in you can walk around, get something to eat (and not being a dirty down market football fan, have a pint. I'm not overly convinced of the merits of overly chilled pints in plastic glasses though). But it is not a great stadium for watching football in. The west stand is separated from the pitch by the warm up track, and the huge in-goal areas make sense for rugby football but leave the north and south stands remote from the pitch for association football. Finally for transport links - notwithstanding that I live on the southside of Glasgow, I really cannot see how the transport links to Murrayfield are that much better than Hampden. The walk from Haymarket to Murrayfield is a bit more salubrious than that from Central to Hampden, but it is only about 20 minutes further (with the option of getting the train to Mt Florida or Kings Park). Also the two matches Celtic have played at Murrayfield did not involve large amounts of away fans - something that would be very different for any domestic cup match, and the railway line to the south is an obstacle when it comes to having two decent accesses for fan segregation - do you fancy having 35,000 fans funneled through the railway bridge at Roseburn Street? And that is before you get on to road links. You can't convince me that the on street parking around Murrayfield is that much better than at Hampden. It is one thing for the well heeled of Corstorphine to put up with parking on 5 weekends a year (2 a year, 3 in autumn) for rugby internationals. Add on 4 semi finals, 2 finals and perhaps 5 internationals and you have trebled the amount of games played. They will lobby for (and no doubt get) extensive match day parking restrictions. And then the road links in and out of Edinburgh are shite, you essentially have Corstorphine Road and Calder Road which both head for the city bypass and the M8. Hampden has the M74, M77 and M8 all within a few miles. I'm not saying that Hampden is the perfect location (and is far from being the perfect ground), but I'm not really convinced that Murrayfield is that much better. The best location for a stadium is slap bang in the middle of a city, it is where entire transport systems are designed to get people to and from. The boat has well and truly been missed now, but I can't help but think that when vast majority of the land behind the Broomielaw was derelict and regeneration a far flung dream that a new national stadium should have been built in the area bounded by Argyle Street, York Street, the Broomielaw and Washington Street. That would have put you in walking distance of Central and Queen Street from those coming from further away, Anderston and Charing Cross stations for those living along either of the Glasgow low level lines, the subway (for the loyal), the existing Glasgow bus network, two bus drop off and pick up points could have been included within the stadium and supporters coaches parked at the SECC during the game.

pault1888

Thanks for the comments Alan much appreciated. I’m travelling home from the snowbound south just now so I’ll keep my replies brief. Agree on the capacity issue- but that’s the same wherever we play. Scotland can’t currently afford a 35k stadium anywhere and none of the next 3 biggest clubs after us & the Huns have any plans or demand to support one. Hampden is too small for us & probably others for Cup Finals so we are between a rock & a hard place on that one. I’m not sure I agree on distance from pitch being an issue at Murrayfield- it’s certainly no worse than Hampden in this regard where only the North Stand is within 10 yards of the pitch and West/East nearer 50 yards away. Segregation is an issue that be addressed yes, but I completely disagree on the transport comment. Murrayfield has integrated transport links (tram/train/bus linking to park & ride and main transport hubs) that are light years ahead of Hampden. In train terms alone there is access to a primary point of entry at Haymarket for fans arriving in all directions, Hampden has secondary train access via Central commuter lines. People travelling from east or north have to pass through 3 Glasgow stations to get to the ground. I travel from the east to Hampden and I can assure you the road links out are terrible until you get to the motorways, which can take an age depending on where you park. Fair point in on-street (it’s not in Corstorphine btw) but again Murrayfield handles high volumes of road traffic currently & im not aware of wide scale issues. 2 Park and rides on the west of the city too, which is 2 more than I can access coming to Hampden. Agree on the ideal world stadia suggestion, but from a pragmatic point of view I’m sticking with Murrayfield for now. Cheers!