A POTENTIAL £11.5m “divorce settlement” is threatening to derail the debate over Hampden Park’s future.
The SFA are in the process of assessing the pros and cons of quitting the National Stadium when their lease runs out in 2020.
Alternatives under consideration include a rival bid from Scottish Rugby to host major games at Murrayfield, which can host crowds of up to 67, 000.
Another option is to use club grounds – such as Celtic Park, Ibrox, Tynecastle and Pittodrie – on a match-by-match basis, which would allow flexibility depending on demand.
The decision will be taken by an SFA Board made up of chief executive Stewart Regan, president Alan McRae, Rod Petrie, Mike Mulraney, Ian Maxwell, Thomas McKeown and two independent non-executive directors, Ana Stewart and Gary Hughes.
It was hoped they might be able to give the Hampden owners, Queen’s Park, their answer early in the New Year.
However, the process is a contentious one.
SFA Board member Mulraney – the chairman of Alloa Athletic – last week raised the temperature when warning the governing body are not bluffing over proposals to quit.
It is also not straightforward.
An SFA board meeting on the subject, planned for last Wednesday, was postponed, to allow additional new information to be put before the eight men and women.
It is understood the potential sticking point is what would happen after a decision to leave Hampden had taken place.
The concerns are specifically in two areas.
First, who will pay for dilapidations – the £5.5m cost of upgrading the wear and tear and restoring the ground to the condition it was in at the start of the SFA’s 20-year lease in 2000?
Secondly, there is conjecture over just who will reimburse the 4000 Hampden Debenture holders, who signed up for a guaranteed seat at big matches.
That sum is estimated to run to a hefty £6m.
With neither side understood to be willing to fund the combined £11.5m costs, intense debate – if not legal intervention – is likely to be needed to resolve of the issue of who picks up the bill, or individual parts of the bill.
The issue is further complicated because the running of the 114-year-old venue is handled by Hampden Park Limited, a subsidiary of the SFA.
An SFA spokesman yesterday said the Association would not comment on the specific terms of the contract struck with the ground’s owners when the lease was signed.
Queen’s Park’s general manager and club secretary, Christine Wright, meanwhile, was equally non-commital.
She said: “The potential dilapidations for the fabric of Hampden, and the potential for issues for Debenture Holders, are part of our discussions with the Scottish FA on the subject of the lease for the National Stadium.
“As the outcome of these discussions has not been concluded, any comment on the impact and who would be responsible for any associated cost would be inappropriate.”
This one seems set to run and run.
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