Hampden faces a battle with Murrayfield to host Scotland football internationals and big cup games after SFA chiefs yesterday ruled out Ibrox and Celtic Park.
The SFA’s current lease deal with Hampden’s owners, Queen’s Park FC, runs out in 2020 and the governing body’s board met yesterday to discuss the options for the future.
SFA chief executive Stewart Regan has previously claimed staying at 115-year-old Hampden would be very expensive but his figures were hotly disputed by Queen’s Park, who agreed a 20-year lease with the SFA in 2000, after the ground had been refurbished.
With that deal set to expire, Rangers and Celtic each made the case for their grounds to host glamour games, as did Scottish Rugby, whose BT Murrayfield home is the largest stadium in Scotland with a capacity of 67,000. Hampden currently holds 52,000.
The SFA board, consisting of Regan, pictured, president Alan McRae, vice president Rod Petrie, SPFL representatives Ian Maxwell and Michael Mulraney, as well as Thomas McKeown of the Scottish Amateur FA, and non-executive directors, Ana Stewart and Gary Hughes, are now expected to make their final choice by the summer.
The SRU clearly made a strong pitch for its ground to become the home of football as well as rugby, while Hampden’s case emphasises the historical importance of the venues,as well as keeping money raised by big games within football.
An SFA statement issued last night stated: “The Scottish FA Board met to consider a comprehensive Options Review report examining the opportunities available beyond the term of the existing lease for the use of Hampden Park.”
As well as submissions from those venues involved in the process – Queen’s Park, Scottish Rugby, Celtic and Rangers – the Board also received supplementary information drawn from a spectrum of other key stakeholders, including the Scottish FA membership.
“Each proposal was discussed in detail and broad themes were developed and debated among the group.
“Having considered all submissions and supporting documentation, the Board has decided at this time to further develop two positive options: remaining at Hampden Park beyond 2020 and moving to BT Murrayfield.
“This decision was taken after considering the financial implications of all proposals submitted. The next phase of the process will begin immediately with a view to final proposals being considered in the summer.”
A Queen’s Park spokesperson said: “We welcome the Scottish FA’s decision to further explore remaining at Hampden Park, Scotland’s National Stadium, and are committed to working together to ensure the best possible outcome for Scottish Football as a whole, as well as the club.”
Murrayfield has already hosted football on numerous occasions, including Hearts’ European ties when Tynecastle was deemed unsuitable and pre-season friendlies between Hearts and Hibs and Barcelona in 2007 and 2008. Earlier this season, Hearts used it for four league games whilst Tynecastle was being redeveloped.
A spokesperson for Celtic said: “We were pleased to engage with the Scottish Football Association in considering our stadium.
“We were asked to consider a 20-year commitment and Celtic was willing to enter a transparent, open-book partnership process, to assess the suitability of Celtic Park.
“Clearly, the SFA has rejected this approach and chosen not to consider Celtic Park as a potential venue. This is something we accept and we wish the association well in pursuing their other options.”