John McLellan: Edinburgh doesn't want Rangers and Celtic's vile tribal war
The Scottish Football Association has suspended its decision on whether to abandon Hampden and take internationals and showpiece cup ties to Murrayfield, in order to allow Hampden owner Queen's Park FC and the Scottish Rugby Union to supply more information.
Balancing the two is not easy. Do they opt to keep all revenues but incur the cost of buying out Queen’s Park and upgrading the ground, or sacrifice some revenue but avoid an outlay? Queen’s needs to be careful not to overplay its hand because the amateur club does not have the resources to maintain Hampden without SFA rent and, if cut adrift, Hampden could end up more like the nearby ghost ground of Third Lanark’s Cathkin Park than Scotland’s San Siro.
Hampden’s fate is not the SRU’s concern and into their attacking three-quarters this week bustled the unlikely figure of Edinburgh council leader Adam McVey, more known for his love of St Mirren than rugby, who in backing Murrayfield said that “the extra capacity in and around the ground could generate significant sums for the betterment of the Scottish game”.
This is probably true, but the question for the SFA remains why should it help fund a rival sport and threaten the future of Scotland’s oldest football club and a nursery for generations of top players, like current Liverpool star Andy Robertson.
Councillor McVey added: “We boast years of shared expertise and experience in providing the warmest and safest welcome to our beautiful capital city, working hard to ensure visitors’ needs are balanced with those of local residents.” Again, this is undeniably true and would remain so for friendly internationals and nice fixtures like Aberdeen v Motherwell when Murrayfield would be half empty.
But the Old Firm? Large numbers of Rangers and Celtic fans travel regularly to Edinburgh, but never together and in far fewer numbers than for a cup final in a 67,000-capacity ground. At Hampden it’s in and out for Celtic fans through King’s Park and Rangers supporters via Mount Florida and there will be little economic benefit to Edinburgh from a vile tribal battle in which rival armies are marshalled in and out like prisoners of war.
Old Firm games have no equivalent anywhere in the UK: City v United, Everton v Liverpool, Newcastle v Sunderland are garden fetes compared to this one and while it’s all very well for the SRU to count the loot, it’s the people of Murrayfield, Corstorphine, Balgreen and Roseburn who’ll count the cost.
As a Rangers follower, a former associate member of Queen’s Park and a rugby supporter I can see the benefits on both sides, but Glasgow is the home of Scottish football and the SFA and Queen’s Park need to make sure it stays that way. Edinburgh has more that enough going for it without trying to strip Glasgow of its title.