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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, May 3, 2018

Meeting of the Parliament 03 May 2018

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Save the Hampden Roar, Digital Connectivity, Decision Time, Correction


Contents


Save the Hampden Roar

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani)

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-10278, in the name of James Dornan, on the save the Hampden roar campaign. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes the Evening Times’ campaign, Save the Hampden Roar, to retain Hampden Park as the home of Scottish football; understands that the SFA is to make a decision on whether it will renew the lease of the national stadium; recognises that Hampden Park has been the country's home football ground since 1903 when it was opened as the largest stadium in the world; highlights that it has played host to countless memorable international and club football games, including being the venue of the 1960 European Cup final where Real Madrid defeated Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3, and the scene of the famous Zinedine Zidane goal in the 2002 Champions League final; looks forward to the stadium showcasing four matches at the 2020 European Championships; notes that, in addition to football matches, Hampden Park has held other major sporting events, including for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and been the venue for major concerts; acknowledges the significant economic benefit that it believes Hampden Park brings locally and to the wider Glasgow area; notes the comments by the Glasgow City Council leader, Councillor Susan Aitken, that the case for the national stadium to retain its Glasgow home of 115 years is compelling, and further notes the calls on the SFA to commit its future to Hampden Park.

12:48  

James Dornan (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)

It gives me great pleasure to speak to the motion.

Before I start on what I want to say about the situation, I give a huge thanks to Ged O’Brien, who is a Scottish football historian and who opened the Scottish football museum at Hampden; Graeme Brown, who leads the 1st Hampden park campaign, which is looking to get recognition for the very first of the three Hampden stadiums, which is now Hampden bowling club; and John and Ali McHugh and the rest of those who participate through the Hampden collection and the save the Hampden roar campaign.

I want to highlight the current situation regarding Hampden park, which is an important issue in my constituency. The media have informed us that there is a possibility that the Scottish Football Association will not renew its lease for cup games and international matches and will leave for pastures new. To be fair, recent reports suggest that a deal that will keep the SFA at Hampden is close. If so, we must ensure that the future of Queen’s Park is assured. I want to place on record the serious and negative impact that there would be on the south side of Glasgow in particular if the SFA were to leave for Murrayfield or elsewhere.

Bruce Crawford (Stirling) (SNP)

Mr Dornan will be aware that I am a card-carrying member of the tartan army and have been for many years. I fully understand why he is involved in the campaign, as the local constituency member. If the SFA buys Hampden and becomes the owner, in what way will Hampden benefit and be improved? That is what most people in the tartan army want.

James Dornan

That is a good point. I have doubts about the way that the SFA has gone about the issue, but my hope—and, to be honest, my expectation—is that, if the SFA gets Hampden for a song, as it appears will be the case, there will be a commitment from the SFA and others to redevelop it over time and to work with appropriate bodies to ensure that transport to and from the stadium is better than it is currently. I cannot say that I have the problems with transport that many supporters claim, as I can walk to it from my house, so it is not a major issue for me.

My constituency incorporates, among other areas, Cathcart, Mount Florida, Battlefield, Langside and Newlands, all of which would feel the economic impact if the changes were made. It is about more than that, however. Hampden is part of the nation’s psyche and has been an integral part of day-to-day life for Scotland since its construction in 1903. It is more than a stadium. Some call Old Trafford the theatre of dreams but, for us, Hampden is the platform of hope or, for many football fans, deepest despair. The stadium is the fulcrum of the history of Scottish football.

My first memory of Hampden is of Celtic playing Dunfermline in the 1961 Scottish cup final first leg, which ended nothing each. Celtic then got beat in the replay—[Interruption.] I hope that the minister is not gloating—I would be very upset if she was. [Laughter.] I missed that game, because I had homework to do. However, in the 1965 cup final, we got our revenge and beat Dunfermline 3-2, with Billy McNeill scoring a famous goal. I was there for Scotland v Czechoslovakia, when Tommy Hutchison scored with a magnificent header to put us through to the world cup for the first time in 16 years, and for Celtic v Leeds, when there were 130,000 in the ground to see that magnificent 2-1 victory for Celtic to get us into the final of the European cup again.

Hampden is the world’s oldest continuously used international ground and it became the template for all modern stadia that followed. As I said, there have been three Hampdens, and it has settled in its current incarnation. At its peak, it could hold 185,000 people. The structure marks the epicentre of the footballing earthquake that, according to football historian Ged O’Brien, made Scotland the founder of world football.

The history is fascinating. Many people say that football was created by our neighbours down south. There is no doubt at all that the oldest football association is the English FA, which was established in 1863. However, it appears that the first club to play football was called, aptly, the Football Club, and it had its first games in Dalry park. The first known football club in the world was indeed from Scotland. Members may also be surprised to hear that the first football act was enacted in the Scottish Parliament, if not in this building. I am looking round to see whether Stewart Stevenson is here but, in 1424—those two statements are not in any way connected—James I passed a law prohibiting football or, as it was put in old Scots,

“playing at the fut ball”.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

It is absolutely fascinating to look backwards at the history but, looking forward, some people feel that to have three major stadiums is just too much and a luxury that we cannot afford. How does the member respond to that?

James Dornan

I would say that the stadiums have not suddenly appeared out of the blue. We have had three major stadiums in Glasgow for longer than my life, and my life has been quite long so far. I really do not see that as an issue; I see it as something that people who are trying to get Hampden to close or to get the SFA to move are hanging their hat on.

In the summer of 1867, a group of men from the local Young Men’s Christian Association were playing what they called football, and they turned out to be Queen’s Park Football Club. They were passing the ball about on an open park with bundles of old clothes for the goals. One hundred years later, kids like me were doing exactly the same thing while 11 men who came from within 30 miles of Hampden and, to be fair, Parkhead, won the European cup in Lisbon.

The irony is that the Queen’s Park team are so proud of what they have achieved that they hardly talk about it—it is just part of their DNA. They believe that anyone could have come up with it. A quizmaster once said that it’s only easy if you know the answer, and Queen’s Park knew. They simply thought, “Why wouldn’t you pass around an opposition, use tactics, have half time or play 11-a-side?” Queen’s Park, run from Hampden, dominated the early game until the rest of the world copied and caught up. They were aptly called the Scotch professors, and they are the founders of the beautiful game that is currently enjoyed the world over.

On 30 November 1872, which is a date—30 November, not 1872—that will ring a bell for many members, the world’s first international football match, between Scotland and England, was played. Queen’s Park played on behalf of Scotland. Coincidentally, the date marks a centenary celebration for another Glasgow club—one of the other two that have a stadium in Glasgow—as Rangers beat Bayern Munich in Barcelona 100 years later.

Football is about histories and personal memories. Hampden is a place where I have seen players the likes of which the world had never seen before. Maradona, Pelé, Zidane, Law, Cooper, Dalglish and Larsson are only some of the greats whom I have witnessed in my lifetime. There is hardly a family in Scotland that will not have some sort of memory of a game played in that wonderful stadium: families huddled around the television, the country’s eyes fixed on our national landmark; teams lining up as Scottish cups were won or lost; the national side seconds from making it to the world cup; the tartan army gathering in the stadium in 1978 to see off the opposition; and Ally’s army, with the folks at home filling the atmosphere from Hampden to every living room the length and breadth of this country. That is why I am proud to be the voice of the keep Hampden roaring campaign in the chamber today, and that is why we must keep Scottish football at its national home, which is Hampden.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

We move to the open debate. We are really pushed for time, so I have to insist that members do not go beyond four minutes.

12:56  

Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

First, I congratulate my colleague James Dornan on bringing the debate to the chamber.

For many, including me, Hampden park is not just the home of Scottish football but a shrine, and the scene of many fond memories of incredible club and international games, world-class athletics and iconic music performances. Looking back, I fondly remember watching umpteen Scottish cup finals, from Hearts v Rangers in 1976, when I was a toddler, to Celtic v Motherwell in 2013, missing out only on the old firm games in between. I enjoyed some incredible matches, such as Motherwell beating Dundee United in 1991, Gretna’s loss to Hearts on penalties in 2006 and, of course, my own team, St Mirren, defeating UEFA cup finalists and perennial cup final bridesmaids Dundee United in 1987. I even remember, back in the mists of time, watching a league cup match between John Mason’s Clyde and Queen’s Park.

Who can forget international matches such as Scotland v England back in 1978, just before the world cup in Argentina? Scotland attacked relentlessly for 90 minutes against a catenaccio-minded England team, who—as I recall—crossed the halfway line only once and scored. It was an absolute scandal. Who can forget Scotland qualifying for the 1990 world cup by beating France 2-0? That was a fabulous night.

Regardless of who wins, there is no denying the electrifying atmosphere that exists at Hampden, which continued even after the old coup became all seated. Hampden not only holds special importance for Scottish football fans, but has attracted supporters from around the world as the host of three European cup finals, two cup-winners cup finals and a UEFA cup final.

Hampden park is not just a world-class stadium, but a record-breaking one. On consecutive Saturdays in 1937, Hampden established two records that remain unsurpassed. On 17 April 1937, the first all-ticket Scotland match attracted 149,415 fans—including, I am told, a youngish Bruce Crawford—who witnessed Scotland skelp England 3-1. That is a British record for any match. A week later, in the Scottish cup final, a crowd of 146,433—a European record for a club match—were crammed in to watch Celtic beat Aberdeen 2-1, while 20,000 supporters were locked outside.

Another record was set at the 1960 European cup final, in which 127,621 spectators turned up to witness Los Blancos win their fifth European cup in a row, beating Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3. That is the highest attendance at a European cup final. Ten years later, as James Dornan mentioned, 136,505 people saw Celtic beat Leeds 2-1—that is a record for a European cup semi-final crowd.

Over the years, renowned musicians have chosen Hampden as a stop on their world tours, including Tina Turner, Bon Jovi, George Michael, the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC and Beyoncé. Rumour has it that Jackie Baillie even saw Robbie Williams there, albeit that she was a guest of BT.

To lose Hampden is unthinkable, because it is a totem that benefits Glasgow’s economy and standing. It would mean the loss of an iconic building, which was envied as the largest in the world when the present site opened in 1903.

Of course there has been legitimate criticism of Hampden’s facilities. Upgrades could be made to enhance the safety and enjoyment of fans. However, I believe that much of the criticism made of our national stadium is unjustified.

On alternatives to renewing the SFA’s lease, the only realistic options would be to use Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby, Ibrox or Celtic park. However, neither of the latter two options would be reasonable as they would require the SFA to pay Rangers or Celtic rent and thus offer a financial advantage to the two wealthiest clubs in Scotland, the recent history of Rangers notwithstanding. The team housed at the stadium in question would know that a final or a semi-final would be likely to be played at their ground, which would offer them an on-field advantage. The same issue does not arise at Hampden. Queen’s Park is an amateur team that gains no sporting advantage from its income on the lease.

A sacrilegious move to Murrayfield would make travelling more difficult for fans living on the west coast, such as in my constituency of Cunninghame North, and would involve money that was previously invested in football going to rugby. That means that the fan ticket price would no longer trickle down to grass-roots football or into funding Queen’s Park, Scotland’s oldest club and former footballing giant of the Victorian era, which might not survive.

For 115 years, Hampden has been at the heart of the Scottish game and the scene of good days and bad days for Scottish football. There have been great games and big names, historic cup success and some magnificent finals. Hampden park is a stadium to be proud of and its historic legacy must continue.

13:01  

Brian Whittle (South Scotland) (Con)

I congratulate James Dornan on securing time in the chamber for this debate. I really welcome the opportunity to contribute.

As we have heard, everyone has their own personal experience of Hampden park, and I am no exception. I have seen many Scotland matches and cup finals there. I have seen Olympic football matches there. I took my youngest to her first football match there. I even played volleyball on an inflatable volleyball court on the hallowed turf prior to the Scottish cup final in the late 1980s as an apparent pre-match entertainment—a phrase that I never thought I would say out loud.

I have been to many concerts there, dating back to the late 80s when I saw the Rolling Stones from the terraces—standing next to Billy Connolly, no less. I also saw AC/DC a couple of times and Oasis, U2, Bon Jovi and Nickelback, who, incidentally, I am going to see tonight—I have a spare ticket if Mr Dornan fancies it.

I was there at every night of the athletics during the Commonwealth games to witness the Hampden Commonwealth roar. I introduced my youngest and middle daughters to Usain Bolt in Hampden park in Glasgow, no less.

The list of special moments in Mr Dornan’s motion conjures up many memories and emotions. I especially remember Zinedine Zidane’s winning goal in the champion’s league final—left foot, on the volley from the 18-yard box, top corner. Surely no one is allowed to be that good. To me, it is tantamount to cheating.

Sport and music do that to us. It is not just about watching; it is about that well of shared emotion in a crowd. It is about the feeling that we get when we witness something incredible live, shared with 40,000-plus others. Every time we see it, or remember it, those emotions rush back to greet us all over again.

I have a great deal of sympathy with Mr Dornan’s motion. I find myself torn, to a certain extent, because I remember the debate prior to the refurbishment of Hampden park back in the day when the alternative was to build a new multipurpose stadium out at Strathclyde park. From a practical perspective, that made a bit of sense. The transport network meant that access would be easier, given the motorways nearby. There was plenty of space for car parking. A stadium that could be used daily would be a much better use of public funds. The facilities would be built to modern standards. The case made absolute sense, but, in the end, a new stadium elsewhere would not be Hampden park.

So, the old stadium was refurbished and became what we see today. Therein lies the dilemma. Sport is not just about practicalities. As we have heard today, deep-seated accompanying passion bubbles away underneath it.

Should we look at the financial implications of sharing facilities with rugby at Murrayfield, which is a fantastic stadium? I love going there to see rugby internationals. Hearts played there for a while and it worked. However, I have to say that Murrayfield is not in Glasgow—and I am a west coastie so I have to be able to say that. Do we move from a built-up and congested area, which, if we were starting from scratch, we would never consider for an international stadium? Do we once again back nostalgia, history and emotion? Perhaps the younger generation would develop their own nostalgia no matter where the games were played. To be honest, I do not know.

It is a question of head versus heart. I will watch this story develop and maybe my opinion will take shape. I have to say that when it comes to sport, I would always follow my heart.

13:04  

Willie Coffey (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)

I congratulate my colleague James Dornan on bringing Hampden, the home of Scottish football, to the attention of the Parliament. Like other members, I want to look back at some key moments in Hampden’s history that I had some involvement with and to see whether we can look forward to what a future Hampden might look like.

My first recollection of going to Hampden was for the 1970 Scotland v England international, along with my brother Danny, to see Scotland and to see our own Kilmarnock player, Billy Dickson, playing at left back, alongside great players such as Jinky Johnstone and John Greig for Scotland, and Gordon Banks and Bobby Moore for England. There was an incredible crowd of 137,000, which is nearly three times the current Hampden capacity, all of whom were basically in the same space as today. I can remember us being squashed in like sardines, even though we were down at the front with our flask and our sandwiches. A clear penalty claim not given to Scotland and a nil-nil result meant that the honours were shared.

Next up, in 1976, we had Saint-Étienne v Bayern Munich in the European cup final, with Glasgow becoming European for the days up to and after the game and taking full advantage of the more liberal continental licensing laws that were denied to us Scots at that time. “Allez les verts,” was the cry around Hampden as the Scottish supporters got behind the underdogs. Alas, their hopes were dashed by the wonderful Gerd Müller, who scored the only goal for Bayern. However, I have retained a fondness for Saint-Étienne to this day and I know that Saint-Étienne bought the big square Hampden goalposts that denied them twice that day.

Lastly in my reminiscences, there is the 2012 Scottish league cup final between Kilmarnock and Celtic. A late Killie winner caused near hysteria and joy at the Killie end, only for all of us to be hammered just moments later by the sad news that Kilmarnock star Liam Kelly’s dad had suffered a heart attack and later died after witnessing his son’s finest achievement.

Does all this stuff matter? I think that it does. History and tradition are a crucial part of defining who we are as a football nation. We are collectively the sum of our parts and our past, and we can sense that the Hampden tradition is very much alive when we go there to see the national team. The excitement of a Scottish cup final is still as intense as it always has been, and that, in my view, is also due to the sheer magic of Hampden on a cup final day.

Is there a better stadium than Hampden for Scottish internationals and cup finals? I do not think so, but we should not hold back from thinking about what more we could do to the stadium to make it one of the best in the world and fit for the 21st century. We certainly need better transport links for the fans, as James Dornan mentioned. Some stadiums have transport services that come right inside or alongside their grounds and many have leisure and retail facilities embedded within the stadium complex. Some have magnificent overhead canopies, which make the atmosphere even more electric, so why not Hampden?

Hampden is still and always will be the one true home of the tartan army. Long may it continue into this century and beyond. Again, I congratulate James Dornan on supporting Hampden and bringing the issue to the attention of the Parliament.

13:08  

Johann Lamont (Glasgow) (Lab)

I congratulate James Dornan on securing this important debate, and I thank the Evening Times for its campaign and all those who have supported it and have argued the case.

I should start by declaring a personal interest. Given that my husband is Councillor Archie Graham, who represents the area in which Hampden is sited, and that he has been vocal in his support for maintaining Hampden as the centre of Scottish football, I am not sure whether I would be welcomed home if I did not join with others in highlighting the importance of keeping the Hampden roar.

The case against Hampden, as far as I understand it, focuses on the quality of the stadium itself for spectators. I have had the privilege of watching many an exhilarating game in a fantastic atmosphere over the years, so I am not sure whether I agree with the naysayers. Indeed, in the first old firm final that I attended, in 1989, Joe Miller scored and I discovered that it was possible to traverse 100m of the terracing without my feet touching the ground. That resulted in my being probably the only person in the ground who hoped that there would not be another goal scored. However, I have never forgotten the excitement of that day.

I recognise that there are concerns, but I do not believe that those concerns are grounds for the massive upheaval that has been suggested; they are eminently fixable and I trust that the dialogue between the Scottish Government, Glasgow City Council and the SFA can easily reach a resolution to those concerns. In contrast, the case for staying at Hampden is overwhelming, in my view, on historical, emotional and economic grounds. I give a particular shout out to Queen’s Park Football Club, which is unique in Scotland’s footballing history.

Hampden represents not just a football ground. It is the home of Scottish football, and a place of past footballing glory. The Scottish Football Museum, which is based there, is wonderful testimony to that. It is a football ground into which national funding and national pride have been invested and those are significant.

Hampden is also of huge financial significance to the local area and to the broader Glasgow and Scottish economy. It is estimated that, in 2007, the UEFA cup final brought £15 million into the city. The Olympic matches in 2012, which have been referred to, have been assessed as bringing in £7 million. I cannot overstate the impact of Hampden’s existence on the local retail, licensing and hospitality businesses. It also has an impact on local jobs—Hampden employs a lot of people, many of whom are local and are doing a good job there.

Hampden attracts football, as we have heard, concerts and conferences. It is also an important part of Glasgow’s success as one of the top sporting venues in the world. We must not underestimate the importance of Hampden and sport to the broader tourism economy of Glasgow and the west of Scotland.

In my view, there is sentiment, there is history, and there is emotion. There is also, however, a direct impact on Glasgow. The SFA cannot make a short-term decision on what it perceives to be its narrow interests now, given the national interest and investment. The local community, Glasgow and Scotland deserve better than that. I am sure that we can make the case for the Hampden roar to continue, because it stirs our emotions but also creates economic opportunity for our city.

13:12  

George Adam (Paisley) (SNP)

I thank James Dornan for bringing this debate to the chamber. As a football fan, I believe that this is an important debate. There are many opinions in the debate on our national stadium. For me, the most important thing is that our national sport should be played in our national stadium.

I admit that my opinions on the issue are purely emotional. Is Hampden the best stadium in Scotland? It is probably not. Do the area and the community struggle during a full house? It can be challenging. However, what a day out people get when they are there. All those points miss the crucial point that Hampden is the home of Scottish football, and the home of Queen’s Park, which was a giant in the pre-professional early days of football and in effect invented what we now know as the modern passing game.

Hampden is the place where I watched a young Diego Maradona in 1979. It is where I watched St Mirren win the Scottish cup in 1987, and where I watched them win the Scottish league cup in 2013 as a not-so-young man. It is where every young football player dreams of playing. Most important, it is where our national team plays.

I love the place. Scotland games for me and Stacey are a day out when we go to the south side of Glasgow and enjoy the full day out. From that perspective, I am lucky that my wife loves football. Members cannot say that romance is dead—she enjoys it herself. As Johann Lamont said, we help the local economy on match days by going out there and spending the day out.

Hampden is also where I watched my dad’s previous apprentice armature winder, Archie Gemmill, from Glenburn in Paisley, play. Everyone will remember Archie for his fantastic goal in the 1978 world cup—it is about the only part of 1978 that we all want to remember, right enough. It was fantastic.

Queen’s Park, as James Dornan said, created the beautiful game and it is important that we remember that Hampden is home to Queen’s Park, too. Such heritage cannot be given up. I know what moving from a spiritual home is like for a football team. St Mirren left Love Street stadium in 2009 for a new home that was fit for the 21st century. It was shiny and new, but it lacked the history, the passion for the place and the atmosphere. Only now, after a change of ownership and a lot of hard work from the younger fans, have those issues been addressed. The young men and women who have been involved in a lot of that call themselves the north bank aggro—not in an aggressive way; that is just what they call themselves. Many of them have never even been in the historic north bank in Paisley. That demonstrates why history and football are so important for everyone.

Hampden is our national game’s home. We need to look at ways of making this magnificent old stadium better and we need to make it easier for people to travel to and from the stadium. We must not give up on the history that the stadium has. We cannot lose that passion. That grand old stadium is part of us and part of our nation’s history, and we must all ensure that it is part of Scotland’s future.

13:15  

Graham Simpson (Central Scotland) (Con)

I thank James Dornan for securing this debate on saving the Hampden roar. James Dornan’s debates always force me to talk about football, so here we go again.

The SFA has a decision to make about where the national stadium will be after 2020. As a keen football fan and supporter of the newly crowned Scottish Professional Football League champions, I have fond memories of Hampden and its roar—but I am talking about the Hampden that gave birth to the wall of noise before it was tamed by the stadium’s refurbishment, back in the 1990s.

As I sat down to write this speech, I took time to reflect on my own memorable moments of high drama in Mount Florida over the years. My first visit was as an 11-year-old, when I was taken to the 1975 cup final between Celtic and Airdrieonians—Billy McNeill’s last game. I have the programme here. Not only was there a sense of history, but the atmosphere—to me anyway, as a boy—was incredible.

Ten years after that, I was at the Scotland-England match, which Scotland won 1-0—I have that programme here, too. In general, I do not have a great memory for goals or goalscorers, but I well remember Richard Gough soaring majestically to head past a static Peter Shilton. Hampden did indeed roar. I watched highlights of the game at the weekend and the noise—even through my computer—was incredible. We were in the stand for that one—my dad was not one for the terracing—but when I moved to Glasgow as an adult I usually opted for the standing option, even if it meant getting soaked sometimes. Walking down Aitkenhead Road on match day back then, I would feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, as the noise rolled down off the old terracing, in anticipation of the duel ahead.

Sadly, times have changed and, in my view, not for the better. The new stadium is soulless. Fans are miles away from the action. The wall of noise is gone. Fans who are at the back would be better off watching the match on the telly at home. Sure, the stadium has had its moments. Brian Whittle mentioned the Zinedine Zidane goal, and we had Leigh Griffiths’s two stunning free kicks against England last summer.

Of course, there was also the moment when I took to the pitch in a five-a-side competition, sharing the pitch with one of my heroes, Danny McGrain. That was one of the finest moments.

However, I do not often get excited about going to games at Hampden. The SFA has a tough decision to make and it looks as though it is down to two choices: Hampden or Murrayfield.

Johann Lamont

It is being so cheery that keeps you going. [Laughter.] Does not the fact that a massive amount of public money has gone into Hampden weigh heavily with you in the context of a decision to move?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I remind members to speak through the chair, please.

Graham Simpson

I had not been to Murrayfield until Celtic played a couple of European games there. I was super-impressed. I remember coming out of the stadium and thinking, “This should be the national stadium.” I realise that I am out of step with everyone else in the debate—

George Adam

Nothing unusual there. [Laughter.]

Graham Simpson

Yes.

The Scottish Rugby Union today made a pitch for football to move to Murrayfield. If we put aside any anti-rugby bias, we can surely see that having the national stadium in the capital makes some sense.

It is probably best that I sit down at this point. [Interruption.] I hope that the SFA gets this right. The Hampden roar is a bit of a distant memory—unfortunately. We will see what happens.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

You are a brave man, Mr Simpson.

13:19  

Fulton MacGregor (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)

Apart from Graham Simpson’s contribution, we have heard overwhelming support today for keeping the home of Scottish football at Hampden. I, too, support that, but in broader society opinion is split. My office manager, Allan Stubbs, said that in making this speech today, I had to mention him. We have had very robust conversations in the office about the issue—especially when we heard about the motion that had been lodged by James Dornan, whom I thank for bringing this important issue to the chamber.

I see the issue as one of history and heritage, as others have mentioned. If we lose the idea of the home of Scottish football being at Hampden, we will lose part of our national identity in the game. Whatever people’s thoughts might have been on the rights and wrongs of the Rangers situation, something was lost from the game when the club moved down the divisions. Losing Hampden as the national stadium could be very bad for the game overall. Would it ever be suggested that this Parliament should be moved from here to another city in the country, or that Wembley stadium should be moved to Birmingham or Newcastle? There would be a big uproar if that were to happen.

George Adam spoke about the situation at St Mirren Football Club, which has turned itself around. There is no love lost between me and Airdrieonians Football Club, as I am an Albion Rovers fan. I come from the bit of Coatbridge that joins on to Airdie. Everybody knew that, on match days, Airdrie was a very busy place. The old Broomfield stadium was always booming, as anybody who supports clubs and who went to see them play there would know. Since the club has moved to its new stadium, it has not managed to get that back.

I agree with what other members have said, in that we do not need to get rid of the idea of Hampden park being the home of Scottish football. Bruce Crawford, Johann Lamont and others have mentioned that the approach should be about fixing the stadium’s problems, which seem to be mainly about transport; surely we could fix those problems by working with the council and the SFA. There is also scope for refurbishment inside the stadium.

I believe in accessibility for everybody, whether they are players or supporters. We are examining that in the cross-party group on the future of football in Scotland. I thank the SFA for the great work that it is doing with that group, and also the group’s members who have come to the chamber today.

I must not forget Queen’s Park, which others have mentioned and which is one of our oldest clubs. Okay—I probably should forget it for now, since it beat my own team, Albion Rovers, last week. On a more serious note, I wish Queen’s Park well for the future. It needs to be taken into account in this debate, because a massive part of our heritage would be lost if Queen’s Park were to go. I also take this opportunity to say that my team was unlucky. We spent only one day—the last day of the season—at the bottom of the table, and then we went down.

A lot of exciting things are in the pipeline. As members know, Hampden will host games at the European championships in 2020. I look forward to those games very much, and hope that the Scotland team will be there and that I will be able to go and support it. Even if we are not there, as others have said, the fact that the stadium will host those games anyway will be a brilliant thing for the city and our country as a whole.

13:23  

James Kelly (Glasgow) (Lab)

I was not going to speak in the debate, but I have been tempted into it. I congratulate James Dornan on securing this important debate on the motion on the future of Hampden.

Like all the other members who have spoken, I have great memories of Hampden. I first attended there at a Scottish cup semi-final in April 1972, when Celtic played Kilmarnock. I remember the excitement of going to the ground and experiencing the packed crowd and the atmosphere. I also remember the game in September 1973 that James Dornan recalled, at which Scotland qualified for the Munich world cup tournament. What a fantastic occasion that was.

As far as the future is concerned, if the choice that is on the table is between Hampden and Murrayfield, there is only one winner: it should be Hampden. Like Graham Simpson, I attended games back in 2014, when I was impressed with Murrayfield as a stadium but thought on both occasions that it struggled as regards transport and dealing with the volume of people who had come through from Glasgow. Therefore, there are potential transport issues with having the national stadium at Murrayfield, as well as the clear emotional attachment to Glasgow.

However, I think there are serious issues to be addressed in relation to Hampden. I do not think that the current set-up there is fit for purpose as a proper, modern national stadium. If we look at aerial shots of Hampden now and compare them with shots from the 1960 European cup final between Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt, we can see that a lot of the infrastructure is the same. The façade outside is very similar and a lot of the terracing that was there in 1960 remains, just with seats built on top.

I remember that, in the 1970s, when I used to go to Hampden as a kid, we would get up to the top of the east terrace. It was really exciting and almost part of the occasion that the teams on the pitch seemed so far away. The only player we could recognise was Jimmy Johnstone, because of his blazing red hair. However, that is no longer good enough, if we want to attract people to a modern stadium.

There is also a practical point to be made. If we want to get back especially to great Scotland world cup occasions, we need a stadium where everyone is much closer to the park. The problem at Hampden is that there is an athletics track round the edge, and the seats—especially at the front—are very low. People who sit there just see a lot of legs running about in front of them, and people at the back are too far away. I think there are real issues for the SFA in remodelling Hampden and making sure that we have a national stadium that is fit for purpose.

13:26  

The Minister for Public Health and Sport (Aileen Campbell)

I, too, congratulate James Dornan on securing the debate. I know that, both as a football fan and as the constituency MSP, he cares passionately about the topic.

Many of the contributions that we have heard have highlighted Hampden’s proud history and the unique role that our national stadium has played in Scottish, and indeed world, football. Countless incredible moments at Hampden are now woven into the fabric of our game—cup finals, internationals, goals and moments of drama, excitement, joy and—as many members have outlined—despair.

There have also been memorable occasions that have resonated beyond our shores, many of which are set out in James Dornan’s motion. In 2002, for example, Hampden witnessed one of the greatest cup final goals when Zinedine Zidane scored with an unforgettable volley to win the champions league for Real Madrid. Brian Whittle spoke about that.

In 2020, Hampden will host its first international tournament fixtures for the UEFA European championships. Of course, all guests will receive a warm Scottish welcome, but the celebrated Hampden roar will be all the louder if Scotland can be there at the men’s team’s first major finals since 1998. Despite some of the disagreements that we have had this afternoon, I am sure that that is something that we all agree on.

The debate has reinforced the fact that Hampden—the home of Queen’s Park Football Club—holds a unique place in football, and I join members in celebrating its history. The stadium also played a crucial role in the success of the 2014 Commonwealth games—which meant that it unfortunately missed out on the finest Scottish cup final, in which St Johnstone, of course, beat Dundee United. Hampden has also hosted concerts by some of the biggest names in music. I think that Kenny Gibson revealed that he is a bit of a Beyoncé fan. I am not sure whether he meant to do that.

However, as James Dornan and other members highlighted, discussions about the future of Hampden are now under way. The SFA lease on the stadium will come to an end in 2020 after the European championships, and the association has embarked on a process to consider where its Scottish cup and men’s internationals should be played. The SPFL will also consider where its showpiece league cup fixtures should be held.

Of the options that were initially considered, a peripatetic solution involving Celtic park or lbrox and Murrayfield was discounted, leaving two remaining anchor tenant options, those being Hampden and Murrayfield. Two separate SFA workstreams are now being considered in detail, exploring the pros and cons of each, and we expect the SFA board to make a decision in principle later this summer.

Although we are here to discuss Hampden, I would also like to mention Murrayfield briefly, because it, too, is an iconic stadium. It is a world-class venue that has also hosted some of the most memorable moments of Scottish sporting history. It has successfully hosted football matches, including Hearts fixtures earlier this season. I know that the SRU has put forward a strong case for Murrayfield, which the SFA is now actively considering.

We have been actively engaged in the issue with a range of stakeholders for about 18 months. However, at the outset, we emphasised to the SFA and Queen’s Park that our preference is for the decision to be consensual—one that is made and owned by football, and with vision and ambition at its heart. We fully appreciate the decision’s significance to members—particularly James Dornan and others—and football fans. The issue is of huge symbolic importance to the nation. We recognise the enormous challenges to the SFA in reaching a decision on such an emotive and high-profile issue.

Of course, a wide range of views have been expressed today—those of Graham Simpson and those of everybody else. [Laughter.] However, we need to acknowledge that fans and the football family will hold a range of views, some of which might differ from those that we have heard this afternoon. Hampden is a great venue, but there remain concerns, as others have outlined and acknowledged, about the fan experience, particularly those who sit in the stands behind the goals, and about transport difficulties. Members have underlined those concerns.

We know that the SFA is taking a robust and thorough approach to the decision, and is carefully navigating through all the views that have been expressed. The SFA will continue to have our full support as it works through the complex process that will allow it to make a final decision, based on the best evidence that is available, including the financial dimension.

It is also important to emphasise, again, the importance of the issue to Queen’s Park—as James Dornan, Kenny Gibson, Fulton MacGregor and others have expressed—because it cannot be overstated. The Scottish Government recognises the pioneering role that Queen’s Park has played in the development of the modern game and the unique position that it holds as the sole amateur club in the professional leagues. Queen’s Park’s contribution to Scottish football alone is enormous—with former players including Sir Alex Ferguson and Andy Robertson, who played in a champions league semi-final for Liverpool last night. The future of Hampden is inextricably linked with the future of Queen’s Park. The stadium holds a special place in the heart of the club. We know how important the decision is to the president, the board and everyone at Queen’s Park, including the fans. The club has agreed in principle to sell the stadium to the SFA. I know that that is a huge step, which was not taken lightly, given how important the stadium is to the club.

I have set out the SFA process for reaching this crucial decision. We have actively engaged throughout and will continue to do so. We recognise how important the decision is for the SFA, Queen’s Park, Glasgow, football fans, the football family and, indeed, the whole country. Football is our national game and is of enormous importance to all of us—our constituents and our communities.

The issue is difficult and I am aware—as all members are—that Scottish football faces many challenges, on and off the park. However, it is important to recognise the breadth and depth of the excellent work that is taking place in football, much of which is going unrecognised. Just last week, Stuart McMillan and the Parliament hosted a reception to celebrate the work of the SFA and our cashback for communities programme in inspiring young people and helping them to fulfil their potential. The SPFL Trust and the trusts and foundations that are associated with our clubs deliver incredible activity, which complements the work that is undertaken below the SPFL by clubs of all sizes in all parts of the country, which do so much good in their communities.

It is also important to recognise that the number of women and girls who play and watch football is growing, and that the SFA is creating the world’s first affiliated national association for para-football, which will ensure that people of all abilities can fulfil their potential.

Members mentioned the fantastic work of the Scottish football museum, which is based at Hampden. We recently worked with the museum on the excellent “Football Memories” dementia project, which was celebrated recently in the Parliament with the acknowledgment of the publication of the book, “Mind the Time”, which is an anthology of football poetry edited by Jim Mackintosh, who is the poet in residence at St Johnstone. The book is a celebration of fans and what football means to people and communities across the country. However, I know that Willie Coffey will have been happy that we sang, “Paper Roses”, which is of particular relevance to Kilmarnock.

Willie Coffey

Hear, hear.

Aileen Campbell

Although today’s debate focuses on the future of Hampden, it gives us the chance to celebrate and reflect on all that is good in football. It also gives us the chance to ensure that when we look to the future, we do so with ambition and vision. We will continue to keep members updated as the SFA continues to examine the vexed issue of Hampden’s future.

I again thank James Dornan for bringing this important issue for debate this afternoon.

13:34 Meeting suspended.  14:30 On resuming—