Hearts boss open to moving Scotland games to BT Murrayfield

BT Murrayfield has a larger capacity than Hampden. Pic: SNS
BT Murrayfield has a larger capacity than Hampden. Pic: SNS
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Hearts manager Craig Levein would not oppose playing Scotland international matches or domestic cup semi-finals and finals at BT Murrayfield instead of Hampden.

The former Scotland boss has experienced being in the dugout at both stadiums – Hampden during his role as manager of the national team and the home of Scottish rugby with Hearts.

Hearts manager Craig Levein has the fourth highest budget in the Ladbrokes Premiership

Hearts manager Craig Levein has the fourth highest budget in the Ladbrokes Premiership

The Jambos initially decamped to Murrayfield in 2004 – when Levein was in charge – and 2006 for European matches and then made the temporary move again this season due to the construction of a new main stand, playing four matches against Aberdeen, St Johnstone, Rangers and Kilmarnock.

Prior to the Rangers fixture, the Scottish Rugby Union presented the case for using Murrayfield on a long-term basis to the Scottish Football Association. With the SFA’s lease on Hampden due for renewal in 2020, Levein does not necessarily see a move from Scotland’s traditional footballing home as a negative.

“I quite like the idea of Scotland games going round the country,” Levein admitted. “For the smaller games you could go to Tynecastle, Easter Road or Aberdeen and get a full house.

“Then for the big games you could sell out Murrayfield. If we played England there it would be full, it’s a simple as that.

“Having been the Scotland manager I don’t want to get too involved in the politics of it, but it would be reasonable for me to say that Murrayfield has been a very good experience.

“The pitch is fantastic, the dressing-rooms are great and the atmosphere was good, particularly in the Rangers and Aberdeen games.

“I would imagine that the idea would be to play some of the smaller matches at other grounds and Murrayfield would host the big games. That makes sense. From what I’ve seen I couldn’t make any criticisms of the way things have gone.”

While Murrayfield would appear to win the logistical argument, there remains a strong emotional pull for Hampden and Levein acknowledged that logistics alone should not be the deciding factor.

“I think times they are a changing,” he said. “Things are moving on, so I don’t think there are any big barriers, but that’s not reason enough to make that decision.”

As well as in a professional capacity, Levein has also had the Murrayfield experience as a spectator, although his one foray at watching rugby was endured rather than enjoyed.

“I’ve been to one Scotland rugby international. It was rubbish,” was the blunt assessment. “It was the game against England three or four years ago when the pitch was terrible and we didn’t play very well. I don’t even know what the score was, 22-something?

“That was before the pitch was replaced with the synthetic-grass hybrid one they have now, which has been excellent for our games there.

“The atmosphere was good before the game but it would have been better if Scotland had played better, but that’s like any normal situation for any sporting event.

“But as an international venue I can’t see anything negative that I could say would be any reason why it shouldn’t be tried anyway. That’s not my decision though.”