Scotland vs England at Murrayfield: Crowds are back but things will never be like the 'good' old days – Vladimir McTavish

In a couple of weeks, Edinburgh will host its first major sporting event for two years, when England come to Murrayfield in the first Six Nations game in front of a crowd since March 2020.

Alfredo Di Stefano scores for Real Madrid in the European Cup Final against Eintracht Frankfurt at Hampden Park in 1960 (Picture: Keystone/Getty Images)
Alfredo Di Stefano scores for Real Madrid in the European Cup Final against Eintracht Frankfurt at Hampden Park in 1960 (Picture: Keystone/Getty Images)

As restrictions are gradually eased, it is good to see fans back at live sporting events. Football was just not the same played in front of rows of empty seats. Every game felt like Livingston vs Hamilton Accies, while the Six Nations without fans felt genuinely surreal.

Not only was it weird watching Scotland play Wales at an empty Murrayfield last year, but Edinburgh felt like a ghost town without the noise and colour of the Welsh thronging the city’s streets and pubs.

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Of course, it was a sensible move to play last season behind closed doors, and television coverage of the Six Nations was a welcome distraction from lockdown. Indeed, with the benefit of hindsight, the Scotland vs France game in March 2020 should probably not have gone ahead, but it is easy to be wise after the fact.

It is tempting to speculate on how the pandemic would have been managed in the sporting venues of previous decades.

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When I was young, stadiums were unbelievably dangerous places. Catching a virus would have been the least of your problems when going to a game in the 1970s. The old grounds were quite literally death traps. Even after the Ibrox Disaster in 1971, very little was done to improve safety for spectators.

The old Hampden Park had terraces constructed out of wood and ash, onto which they would manage to officially cram in over 150,000 souls. I say “officially”, because there were numerous hundreds of kids my age who were lifted over the turnstiles and got into the ground for free.

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The old Murrayfield was little better. As a short teenager, I found the best way to watch the action from old open terrace was to stand on empty beer cans. Those same empty beer cans also proved more adequate than the rudimentary toilet facilities available in those days.

And if someone took an impromptu swig from a suspiciously warm can, it only added to the fun. You don’t get that level of entertainment in a 200-quid-a-head hospitality box.

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