Hampden earns last-gasp reprieve

The Scottish Football Association came “incredibly close” to moving to BT Murrayfield before agreeing a deal to buy Hampden from Queen’s Park.

Chief executive Ian Maxwell hailed a “fantastic day for Scottish football” after the SFA confirmed Hampden would remain the home of major internationals and cup semi-finals and finals.

The governing body had been considering taking showpiece games to Edinburgh when its Hampden lease expires in 2020, following an offer from the Scottish Rugby Union.

However, the SFA struck a £5million deal to buy the stadium from Ladbrokes League Two side Queen’s Park, who have owned Hampden Park since it opened in 1903 and will now decant to the adjacent Lesser Hampden.

Ian Maxwell revealed how tight the Hampden decision was
Ian Maxwell revealed how tight the Hampden decision was (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“It was incredibly close,” Maxwell said. “I sat in board meetings that got heated. It was very hotly debated.

“The SRU put forward a very compelling case.  They are a very impressive organisation. I would have really enjoyed going to work with them at Murrayfield, I think we would have done well and we would have learned a lot.

“But ownership is the game-changer. Owning our own stadium and being able to utilise that 24/7 gives us a real opportunity to make changes.

“It is a fantastic day for Scottish football, absolutely fantastic.

“For me to be sitting here as chief executive of an association that now owns its own stadium and the opportunities that gives me and the board and staff, I am hugely excited about the time ahead.”

The SFA confirmed that Glasgow businessman Lord Willie Haughey, a former Queen’s Park player and Celtic director, had pledged half of the purchase cost.

Maxwell, who also played for Scotland’s oldest club, said: “Lord Haughey’s contribution was instrumental in getting the deal done with Queen’s Park in terms of ownership of the stadium.

Lord Willie Haughey played a vital role in securing Hampden's future
Lord Willie Haughey played a vital role in securing Hampden’s future (David Cheskin/PA)

“If there was no deal with Queen’s Park I would be sitting here telling you we were going to Murrayfield.

“It played a vital part. But in terms of the overall deal we looked at both options over a 20-year period.

“The money that Lord Haughey has given is hugely generous and we are thankful for it but over a 20-year period it didn’t have a material impact on the running costs of the stadium or what it would have meant to Murrayfield but was vitally important in terms of the deal with Queen’s Park.”

Maxwell conceded that there was widespread disgruntlement about Hampden’s suitability but vowed to go in search of fresh money for its redevelopment.

Hampden faces further redevelopment
Hampden faces further redevelopment (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“There is no doubt that Hampden needs to be improved,” he said. “There are a number of partners who have said that they would be willing to help us, whether it is Glasgow City Council or the Scottish Government. A lot of people have said that they will be part of that journey with us.

“We have not really looked at the private investment market in any great detail.

“And there are obviously funds that we can generate now that we own the stadium and can maximise revenue from that.”

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

Serving quality football news from around the globe. No click-bait.