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Rangers‘ multi-million pound home ground. Meanwhile. the men in suits at Park Gardens have three options for the future: to revamp Queen‘s Park‘s ageing and dilapidated stadium (at a cost of around £30 million); to move to a purpose-built stadium (possibly in partnership
with Celtic FC) at a huge cost or merely to accept
that Rangers have the best stadium. swallow their pride and play there — withoutforking out apenny in capital investment. To judge the SFA purely on
their previous record of investment. the last solution looks the most likely.
A spokesman for the SFA agreed that the National Stadium Committee is currently considering these options. though they will not report back for a matter of months yet. As for
relations with Ibrox. he was adamant that the fee
paid for the use of the ground was ‘considerably less‘ than the figure of50 per cent of the gate receipts. that has been ‘bandied about‘. How
much less. he was unwilling to say. So. in the short
term. it appears that the SFA accept that playing at Ibrox Park is at least a workable solution to their problem.
It would be easy to blame Scotland‘s football authority for the dilapidation at Hampden. I lad more work been done on the stadium even ten years ago. its further upgrading now may have been a viable alternative. However. despite the unveiling of many ‘new. improved national stadium‘ plans in the past. the money has never been available to realise them. The truth is. that the edict from Fifa has caught many national football authorities napping. Britain is no worse off than Germany. where many stadiums have vast patches of uncovered terracings or Belgium. where the infamous Ileysel stadium has been as badly under-utilised as llampden (both old grounds now badly show their age). Scotland‘s problems are endemic in football in the
post-I'Iillsborough era: all clubs are now trying to
work towards the Taylor-tirade solution of upgraded grounds. And the SFA are no different to any other football authority in the world. none ofwhom could afford to build a national stadium without government support.
The availability of funding over the next few
months will ultimately decide where Scotland can
play their home matches. Simon Inglis. author of Football Grounds of Great Britain and Football Grounds ofEurope. reluctantly agrees that Hampden is no longer a viable option. ‘Even if £20 or £30 million was spent on it. as Wembley plc have already done in England. you still have a second-rate stadium. It is not a long-term solution. However. to build a new state-of-the-art stadium offering decent facilities. without the antiquated infrastructure. you are talking about a cost of£1000 per seat. which for a 70.000 seater ground means £70million. And where will that 5 money come from? Will the Poll Tax payers of Strathclyde foot the bill? Or could the Government. in a cynical bid to buy support up here. provide the cash‘?‘ Both seem unlikely.
The key question. given that llampden is no longer a viable option. is whether Scottish football can afford to build a new llampden and a new Celtic Park. The logical way forward for E Celtic FC and the SFA would be to pool their ! resources and jointly shoulder the enormous ' financial burden. There are precedents for a 5 major club playing its home matches at the national stadium — Real Madrid for example. 1 And I Iampden has virtually become a second home to the big Glasgow clubs over the years. so would it really be such a big change? At least the stadium would be in regular use by a large number of people and would be constantly generating income. However. there is nothing so illogical as the internal politics of Scottish football and the difficulties ofjointly financing aground may ensure that such a partnership won‘t get beyond the talking stage.
In that case it would be up to the SFA to raise sufficent funds themselves for a £70 million stadium. Ifthey decide to ignore their hearts and agree that renovating I Iampden is not really a . viable option. and they cannot get sufficient ' backing on their own for a £50—70 million stadium. Ibrox provides a ready-made alternative. Again. this is dependent on the I vagaries of internal politics in Scottish football. Despite initial trepidation over the cut ofthe gate-receipts and the linking of Rangers with the national stadium. the SFA obviously see some j potential there. What is more it would not cost ‘ them anything. other than the revenue that Rangers would claim.
Though almost all Scottish football fans would love to see a ‘new I Iampden’ rise up to replace the old. the huge costs involved may mean that such talk is mere hot-pie in the sky — masking the reality that such a step is beyond the means ofthe SFA. Then it would boil down to a straight choice between the two Glasgow giants as to which one gets to play their home matches at the national stadium. In that case. Rangers hold the trump card: their stadiumisalready built. 3 Unfortunately. arguments. like the one put l forward by Simon Inglis. stating that that Ibrox‘s g projected capacity of58.000 would be too small for Scotland‘s fixtures. tend to be undercut by the recent attendance figures for their home matches both before and after the World Cup. So. when Scotland run out onto Rangers‘ pitch on 6 February. they may be taking the first steps towards a more permanent pairing of the national I team and the great stadium. I
Simon Inglis will give a talk on Football Stadia and Hibernian FC at the David Hume Tower Lecture Hall (I in Edinburgh. Fri] Feb. 7pm. Tickets £2 available only in ad vanee from The Proclaimer. 67 York Place. Edinburgh (enclose sae).
Scotland play USSR at lbrox Park. 6 Feb, 7.30pm.
“The List 25 January ——7 February 1991