Scotland’s first national football ground faces uncertain future

It has been described as the birthplace of world football but unlike Scotland’s current 50,000 seater stadium where tonight the national side take on Israel in a World Cup qualifier, there is not much to roar about.

Hampden Park Bowling Club now sits on what was the original Hampden Park which was home to the national side from 1873 to 1884.

It was literally a game changer as up until that point, football had been played in open spaces like the Queens Park Recreation Ground or on the cricket grounds of the West of Scotland or Kennington Oval.

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However, it was a group of Queens Park residents who has a vision and built the First Hampden which was the world’s first enclosed, purpose built, international football ground with innovations such as turnstiles which were used for the first time.HeraldScotland: The site of the first Hampden Park is under threatThe site of the first Hampden Park is under threat

Now, it could be time for the residents of Queens Park to step up again as the historic site is under threat. A crucial meeting tomorrow afternoon could decide the fate of the ground which was also the home of Queen’s Park and can be credited as the birthplace of the modern passing game as practised by individuals known as the Scotch Professors. They included Andrew Watson, the first black footballer, Charles Campbell, credited with inventing heading, and James Weir, the so-called Prince of Dribblers.

It has now reached the stage where the bowling club’s committee is set to stand down and the pavilion roof is leaking with a potential repair bill of £150000, prompting fears among members that the club will have to close its doors.

Last month, the charitable trust which runs the venue took the decision to temporarily close the club and grounds for safety reasons and the roof is covered with a tarpaulin. The decision was partly to give the committee time to consider the best way to proceed and now an AGM will held tomorrow.

Graeme Brown, Hampden Park Bowling Club convenor, said: “We have had a good response in the past couple of weeks and have been able to recruit new members and we would need five people to put themselves forward for the committee.

“I have served my time and am stepping down from the bowling club committee after more than six years.

“I hope we get the numbers we need otherwise, the bowling club – and the first Hampden – will be lost. Only Scotland could be in a situation where they could potentially lose their first national football stadium. We were even 50 years ahead of England as Wembley didn’t open until 1923. I doubt this situation would happen in any other country in the world. The site should be preserved and celebrated.

“Everyone who plays football can trace their roots to the site. Everything about the way we play and watch the game can be traced back to the first Hampden from the turnstiles to a season book, an early form of a season ticket.

“I think we will get a committee and then it really needs to be driven forward as a community concern. We’ve done all we can to get to this stage to make people take notice – our third Hampden is only down the road and maybe a few thousands fans heading to tonight’s game might show their support.”

HeraldScotland: A crucial meeting is being held on SundayA crucial meeting is being held on Sunday

Rail commuters on the Cathcart Circle can’t fail to notice the importance of the site thanks to the mural painted by artist Ashley Rawson in 2019, marking the famous Scotland 5-1 win of 1882. Vandalised in February 2020, brewers Tennent’s stepped in to fund repairs with security measures installed to protect the work from future damage.

As for the future it is crucial that there is a committee to act as lease holders.

Mr Brown added: “The bowling club is owned by City Properties, an arm of Glasgow City Council. If there is no club, the lease will be terminated and revert to City Properties.

“The community have to look at what they want to see happen to the site. We might joke about Hampden Heights developments but you have to wonder if that is what a developer would do.”

Mr Brown said the best outcome they could hope for is for someone with a football interest to step in and buy the club some time.

Mr Brown added: “We got quotes for repairs for £150,000 and we have been down the crowd funder route before, but it is hard. However, this is the cradle of the game and so much more could be done.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992