STEWART Regan, the chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, dropped a strong hint yesterday that Hampden would continue as the home of Scottish football but he admitted that the SFA would keep its options open on whether to stay at the national stadium.
The SFA leases Hampden, the freehold on which is owned by SPFL League 2 club Queen's Park, and the current rental agreement is due to run out in 2020. A consultancy firm has been employed by the governing body to consider future options and a briefing note to the SFA and Hampden Park Limited (the wholly-owned subsidiary of the SFA which runs the stadium) suggested one alternative was to take Scotland games and the two major cup finals away from Hampden. The SFA and SPFL offices, and the Scottish Football Museum, would also be relocated in that event.
Hampden is seen as a weak and old-fashioned stadium in comparison to the many new arenas built around Europe, with poor sightlines and atmosphere and other issues which make it unpopular with many supporters. However, leaving - while popular with some - would cause real upheaval.
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The SFA has submitted a bid to Uefa to be one of the host cities for Euro 2020. That decision will be made on September 19 but in advance of that the SFA employed James Watson Consultancy to examine its stadium options.
The last rental agreement was struck 14 years ago and, although Hampden Park Limited is profitable, it regularly has to stage non-football events such as pop concerts, a market made more competitive since the 12,000-capacity Hydro opened as a concert venue in Glasgow.
The SFA wants the Scottish government to start contributing to Hampden's annual running costs, and the consultants' suggestion to take major games elsewhere - chiefly Celtic Park, Ibrox, Pittodrie, Easter Road and Murrayfield - is an option if that financial help is not forthcoming. Building a new stadium is out of the question because of the costs involved.
"It is widely known that the SFA's lease
on Hampden Park expires in 2020, indeed this matter was discussed publicly when
we launched our UEFA Euro 2020 host bid earlier this year," said Regan in an SFA statement. "It is our duty as a governing body to explore all of the options, in consultation with key stakeholders from the game, so that, in due course, we can make the correct decision for Scottish football.
"To that end, a consultancy firm has been engaged to thoroughly investigate the pros and cons of a number of options, and
a briefing note was circulated to the SFA
and Hampden Park Limited boards ahead
of UEFA's Euro 2020 bid decision.
"I must stress that this process is at
a very early stage - no proposals have been put forward or considered, and it is hugely misleading to suggest that the SFA is focusing on whether to move away from Hampden Park. Hampden Park remains
a key pillar of the national game."
James Watson Consultancy will submit
a fuller report to the SFA later in the summer and the governing body - still with five-and-half years left of its current rental agreement - will make a decision on renewing some time after the Euro 2020 vote.
Queen's Park confirmed last night
that they were unaware of the work being undertaken by consultants but would not allow the situation to affect the running
of the club. Christine Wright, the general manager of the League 2 side, admitted
that it would have been "strange" had the SFA not been mulling over a move away from the national stadium and were prepared to discuss the situation when
the time came.
"We had constructive discussions
with the SFA recently over hosting games
for the 2020 European Championships
which are due to be held several months after the present lease expires so staying
at Hampden is an option they are obviously looking at as well," said Wright. "I am sure both parties will continue to work together for the best interests of Scottish football."