IF EVER a line of poetry summed up a commentator's opinion of Scottish football, it is surely these words from the Bard: “An forrit, tho' Ah canna see – Ah guess and fear.”
Because, those few of us remaining in the media who are not members, “in good standing” of Lodge 1690, “the Lap-Top Loyal”, Lodge 1888 “the Celtic Apologists” or churnalists and stenographers – who dutifully re-write every item of pish they are fed from high Level PR exponents, of “family” members – we fear a dark future for the game which Scotland taught the world.
It's not as if I am every going to run out of subjects to blog about. Why, four days into 2018, we have already had the truly offensive behaviour at football, which saw rubber fake eyeballs thrown at Dean Shiels, the news that fewer Scots are playing in the top flight in Scotland, the way in which m'learnd friends are continuing to make money out of the demise of Rangers in2012 - or the subject I am going to focus on today – the continued argument over whether or not Hampden should continue to be our “National Stadium.”
Let me say, immediately in entering this debate, given their standards of fiscal management of Scottish football has been so-good, that the SFA seemingly cannot afford £3 million, which is the going rate for an average Championship defender in England – to implement goal-line technology, there is no chance whatsoever of the necessary cash being found to bring Hampden up to standard any time soon.
Thus, we are looking at:
- The status quo – with the fans continuing to complain about poor sight lines and the other apparent drawbacks of Hampden as it now stands.
- Cup finals and internationals going to Murrayfield
- Cup finals and internationals going to either Celtic Park or Ibrox.
It is often, if not overlooked, more, rarely-mentioned, but, the fact the SFA's corporate offices are situated inside Hampden is an impediment to quitting “the Old Lady.” If the SFA pulls-out of Hampden, they will need to re-locate. I haven't a clue what the going rate for office space in Glasgow is, but, I doubt if they could secure as good a deal elsewhere as they currently have at Hampden.
Or, would the SFA be bold enough to quit the city they have called home since 1872, perhaps moving to the capital, or elsewhere in Scotland? Certainly, this would answer those critics who refer to the organisation as: “The Glasgow Football Association”, but, it would go against the association's institutional mind-set.
Might Rangers be able to offer office accommodation in one of the office blocks around Ibrox – or would this be unacceptable to the rest of Scottish football, reinforcing, perhaps, the view that the Ibrox club is treated as somehow “special” along the corridors of power.
Might Celtic, with their ambitious moves toward creating a “sport village” along London Road, be able to provide the necessary office space, in return for hosting the big games?
Of course, were the SFA to opt for taking big games to Ibrox, Celtic Park, or sharing them between both grounds, it would be further confirmation of the hold the Big Two has over the rest of Scottish football.
These two clubs are already the richest in the land, surely letting them host the bigger games would only take them further away from the pack, and increase the already large imbalance in Scottish football finance.
The objections to taking the internationals and big games to Murrayfield are immediately obvious – that would be an awful lot of cash leaving football for a rival code. But, IF the correct financial package could be negotiated, and in CEO Mark Dodson and Chief Operating Officer Dominic McKay, at Murrayfield, the SRU employs two guys who are sharp negotiators, and who would demand a hefty price for hosting football.
But, an additional 15,000 bums on seats for a big game – a potential 29% increase in gate receipts, etc. for sell-out games - well, that's a big incentive to switch to Murrayfield.
Mind you, the good citizens around Murrayfield, while quite happy to tolerate the upset of having up to 67,000 fans invade their space for three Six Nations games, two or three Autumn Internationals and Cup Final Day every year, might not be so-sanguine, if, the invading fans came complete with the attitude: “We Arra Peepul” and their accompanying triumphalism and belief they have a divine right to march down the middle of the road, or can pee in a convenient doorway. And, that's before we get to friendly exchanges of “banter” or worse bottles, with opposition fans.
OK, one or two rugby fans, fuelled by drinking if not wisely, too well, can go over the score, but, these are but a blimp in comparison to the Bigot Brothers' fans' propensity for offensive behaviour at football matches. This would not go down well with the douce burghers of our capital city.
As I have frequently said – ideally, we build a brand-new, state of the art truly National Stadium, on a greenfield (or brownfield) site, with good road and rail links, somewhere in the central belt. But, until then, expect the arguments to continue, and Hampden to deteriorate until moving away is the only option.