Gordon Smith: Hampden v Murrayfield… the decision is all about the money, not the venue

Hampden Park (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Hampden Park (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

THE future of Hampden Park isn’t the straightforward issue people seem to think it is.

The public perception seems to be this is a debate about the relative merits of Hampden Park and Murrayfield as football stadiums.

It isn’t. This is a negotiation problem being fought out in the public domain.

And, put simply, right now the SFA is holding the owners of Hampden’s feet in the fire.

Even if Murrayfield is found to be the best arena in Scotland for major football matches, that will not be the issue that determines the decision.

Other factors will do that.

The 20-year lease the SFA has with Queen’s Park is due to come to an end, and they wish to strike a different deal.

Specifically, they want to buy Hampden so they, and not the Spiders, can receive rental from the SPFL and all the other tenants.

But they want to do so on their terms, reportedly £2 million, which is well short of Queen’s Park’s asking price.

They also need Queen’s to agree to play their games at Lesser Hampden.

Neither of these stipulations suit Queen’s, and it is for this reason we have seen Scottish Rugby and Murrayfield brought into the equation.

If Queen’s didn’t believe the SFA had a workable alternative on the table, they would have been able to just sit tight for the conditions they want.

The amateurs have both owned the ground, and played on the site, since 1903. They would like that to continue.

At the same time, they are only too aware they can only remain as owners as long as the cash they get for hosting Scotland home games keeps coming in.

I understand there will be people who feel the decision has already been made, that the fact the SFA have asked for more information means they intend to keep the national team at Hampden.

Otherwise, the logic goes, they would have just said yes to Scottish Rugby.

I don’t agree. In these negotiations, for a threat to be believable, you have to be prepared to go through with it.

Let’s hope it does not come to that.

If the SFA do decide to move east to Edinburgh, then I will accept it, just as we will all have to accept it.

I would much prefer it, however, if they stayed put. Why? Because Hampden Park is the home of Scottish football.

It has a fantastic heritage.

Real Madrid’s 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 European Cup Final is one of the most-celebrated showpieces in the game’s history.

In modern times, Zinedine Zidane’s wonder goal in the 2002 Champions League Finals will be remembered forever.

Then there are fantastic League and Scottish Cup Finals, plus any number of great Scotland nights.

It isn’t perfect. The problems with the ground have been raised and debated for as long as I can remember.

Certainly, when I came in as SFA Chief Executive in 2007, there was an acknowledgement that a trick had been missed by not finding the cash in the restructure to move the stands at either end in towards the pitch.

That would have made a big difference.

If you sit near the front behind the goals, you struggle to see the action. And having half the crowd so far from the pitch harms the atmosphere.

I am not arguing it wasn’t terrific in the World Cup qualifier against England last year. It was.

It is when the occasion is not as high voltage that the problems come.

When there is a small crowd, it feels as if fans are rattling about the place.

There are also transport problems getting to and from games on Glasgow’s south side.

That too is nothing new, but it comes with the location.

Are there any solutions?

Of course, there are. The ends could be brought in, the pitch could be lowered and the road planning could be improved.

But that would cost a lot of money, money that just isn’t available.

If it was, I’d suggest we wouldn’t be in this situation and Murrayfield would not have been mentioned.