Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell believes a successful home nations bid to host the 2030 World Cup Finals could help fund the redevelopment of Hampden Park as a state-of-the-art stadium.
On what Maxwell described as a “monumental day” for Scottish football, the future of the famous ground as the home of the national spot was secured with the decision to stay put and reject the alternative option of a move to BT Murrayfield.
The Scottish FA will pay Queen’s Park £5 million to become the new owners of Hampden, crucially assisted by a £2.5 million personal contribution from Glasgow businessman and philanthropist Sir Willie Haughey. The deal is worth around £19 million in total as the Scottish FA also assume £14 million of liabilities to the National Lottery, sportscotland and debenture holders, taken on by Queen’s Park when the ground was last redeveloped in 1998, and which are repayable in the event of it no longer being used as a football venue.
Maxwell accepts that significant fresh improvements are needed to protect the status of Hampden, which will be one of the host venues for the Euro 2020 finals, as a UEFA five-star stadium in the years ahead. The Scottish FA will look to the example of the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Stuttgart which, having had a similar design to the current Hampden, was revamped in 2009 with the pitch level lowered and the stands behind the goals brought closer to the pitch at a cost of around £60 million.
Sourcing those levels of investment pose an obvious challenge for the Scottish FA but major funding could be secured as part of the proposed joint bid with their English, Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts to host the 2030 World Cup.
Initial discussions have already been held between the four associations with further talks planned before the end of the year.
“If we can bring a World Cup here, what does that mean to the country?” said Maxwell. “How can we leverage that? That would be a massive opportunity for us.
“We had a very brief discussion when we were all over in Russia for a FIFA congress and the plan is to meet up again in the short term and see exactly where those conversations can lead to – it will be before Christmas. If there was a home nations bid, then that would be a strong proposition.
“There is no doubt Hampden needs a bit of work. It’s 20 years old now in its current form and there are areas of it we need to try and improve. There is no shying away from that.
“This gives us a real opportunity to step back, look at the whole Hampden experience and come up with a plan to say there are areas of this we need to attack. We can’t do it all tomorrow. Some will be picked up for Euro 2020 and then we can come up with a longer-term plan to address the rest. Stuttgart is a really good model and we are committed to investigating that. They had a very similar stadium to what we have at the moment and they managed to bring the ends in.
“It’s going to be a chunky number that will be required to get us to that point but that’s not something to be scared of. We need to try and address that, have conversations with as many people as we can, whether it’s private funders, government – I don’t suppose Glasgow City Council will or can pay for it.
“I wouldn’t like to stick a number on it. Depending on who you ask, there are different ways to do it and we have to find out the best way for us to do it.”
Maxwell said debate around the Hampden decision was heated among his fellow Scottish FA board members – president Alan McRae, vice-president Rod Petrie, SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster, Alloa chairman Mike Mulraney, Scottish Amateur FA secretary Thomas McKeown and independent non-executive director Ana Stewart.
“Listen, the board all agreed this was the best thing to do,” said Maxwell. “I don’t like getting into whether it was unanimous. Boards are allowed to make decisions that are not unanimous. But this was a decision in the best interests of Scottish football.
“It’s a monumental day for Scottish football, let’s not make any bones about that. We now own a National Stadium which is a world-renowned asset.”
Asked if the Scottish FA would have chosen the Murrayfield option if Lord Haughey had not made his financial intervention last week, Maxwell was non-committal.
“It didn’t get to that point,” he replied.
“That’s hypothetical, you can’t answer that question. All I know is that Willie was instrumental in getting the deal done with Queen’s Park.
“To be honest, it wouldn’t have bothered me to push the button to leave Hampden if I thought it was the right decision for Scottish football. I genuinely mean that. People might say that’s easy to say now because I’m not pushing that button but I could have sat here and made just as compelling a case to go to Murrayfield, because of the way they put their case forward and the different opportunities that would have given us.
“It was a negotiation. It was a commercial deal and was always going to be like that. You need to get to the point where everyone is happy and we got to that with Queen’s Park.”