Stadium Experience: Hampden Park, Scotland’s Colosseum of Football

(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Often overlooked as one of the world’s great venues, Scotland’s Hampden Park boasts a history that is both impressive and unique.

Built in 1903, the current Hampden Park is actually the incarnation of the stadium with the same name. For 47 years, the Glasgow venue was actually the largest stadium in the world until the Maracana opened in Brazil for the 1950 World Cup.

In 1904 an Old Firm game between Celtic and Rangers drew a crowd of over 64,000 people. Just two years later, a Scotland-England match drew over 102,000 people. That match saw Hampden Park become the home venue for the Scottish national team to this.

However, the venue is not just the home for the national team. Since 1903 Queens Park FC has called the massive stadium home despite being only an amateur team in the Scottish League. In fact, their motto translates to “to play for the sake of playing.” Even with the fact they have not been in the top flight of Scottish football since 1958, their support and history is considered legendary in Scotland.

Queens Park FC is the oldest association club team having been founded in 1867; and they remain the only Scottish team to ever play in the FA Cup Finals when they reached the finale in 1884 and 1885. Queens Park are also the current owners of the stadium.

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Decades after its opening, Hampden Park became a global icon of the sport as its capacity was increased to 183,388 people in 1937. However, football games were limited to crowds of only 150,000 people.

That year, a Scotland-England match drew 149,000 however, 20,000 more were reported to have attended without tickets. To this day, this is still the European record attendance for an international match.

Official Program of 1960 European Cup Final

In 1960, the European Cup Final was played at Hampden Park with Spanish giants Real Madrid defeating German side Eintracht Frankfurt in front of 130,000 people. The match was a ten goal thriller that saw a final scoreline of 7-3 with the Spanish club claiming their fifth consecutive European title.

By the 1980s the heavy use over the past three quarters of a century had left Hampden in need of renovation. In 1986, a long renovation was completed and capacity was reduced to 74,370. In 1992, a further reconstruction was undertaken to make the famed stadium an all-seating venue and this is how the stadium is seen today with an attendance of just over 52,000.

Hampden Park is known for its acoustical nature that makes crowd noises extremely loud and intimidating for opposing teams. The current structure has a roof the covers all the seats and the echo of the crowd reverberates to amplify the sound.

Visually, it does not look like a stadium that is one of the oldest in the world. Several renovations have made it look like a stadium that is less than 20 years old. On either end, the stands are painted the color of the Scottish flag in the more modern style of seat marking and labeling.

Outside of soccer, Hampden Park has hosted Rugby matches on occasion. In 1999 it was a venue for the Rugby World Cup. In June 2000, Mike Tyson defeated Lou Savarese in a heavyweight bout that lasted less than a round.

In music, it has hosted high profile concerts for Oasis, U2, The Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, and Paul McCartney.

This history of Hampden Park is source of pride for all Scots and on location there is a museum for Scottish football that has over 2500 exhibits and a display of the Scottish Cup – the world’s oldest national trophy.

Hampden Park is indeed a must see venue for any football fan for both the experience it gives for a game, as well as its history dating back to some of the most groundbreaking moments in football history.

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