The Tiny Club With the Giant Stadium And The Deal That is Driving Them Apart

Queen’s Park FC, a club plying its trade in the Scottish 2nd Division with an average attendance of 600, plays in Scotland’s biggest stadium, Hampden Park. But, it is about to lose its rights to play there very soon.

“Tonight, at half-past eight o’clock, a number of gentlemen met at No. 3 Eglinton Terrace for the purpose of forming a football club”an excerpt from the minutes of the club’s first meeting read as such. Queen’s Park FC was the first-ever football club in Scotland, a country obsessed with rugby at the time. Rugby was all the craze at the time, before a group of men with no background in rugby, decided to form a football club.

However, the founders decided to not attain professional status and remain an amateur club. Thus, born their motto Ludere Causa Ludendi– play for the sake of playing. The club played amateur football until members voted to turn professional in 2019, 152 years after its formation.

In the early years of English football, Scottish clubs were invited to play in the FA Cup. Queen’s Park impressed greatly, finishing runners-up consecutively in 1884 and 1885, losing to Blackburn Rovers on both occasions. They, however, won 10 Scottish Cups, dominating the competition from 1874 to 1893.

Queen’s Park FC is known to have introduced a new system at the time in terms of their style of play- “the passing game”. Owing to their inferior stature, the members decided to pass forward and score goals. It is said that this philosophy inspired clubs like Ajax and Barcelona, who later adopted similar systems. Some brilliant players have also graduated from the club’s academy. Players like Andy Robertson, Lawrence Shankland, and Blair Spittal are some of the notable names.

Hampden Park, Scotland’s version of the Wembley, hosts all of Queen’s Park’s home games. Leased by the Scottish Football Association (SFA), the stadium also serves as the home of the Scottish national team. Initially playing in the Queen’s Park Recreational ground, the club later moved to an enclosed ground, renaming it Hampden Park. The first-ever match was played between Queens’ Park FC and Dumbreck FC, in a Scottish Cup first-round tie. It was also the first time the club adopted its present white and black hooped jerseys, thereby earning the nickname “The Spiders”. The match ended in a 7-0 to Queen’s Park FC.

Hampden Park has seen record attendances in the early 20th century, with 149,415 people turning up for the 1937 British Home Championship tie between Scotland and England. Since then, the stadium has seen attendance records being broken consistently. The stadium holds a European record of highest attendance in a Champions League (then the European Cup) game between Celtic and Leeds United with 136,505 in attendance.

The stadium capacity has been reduced to around 52,000 since its redevelopment in 1999. Subsequently, concerts were allowed to be conducted. In 2009, the stadium hosted more concerts than football matches.

As an amateur club, Queen’s Park FC could not afford the renewals and repairs the stadium needed in the 1970s. The club eventually had to sell Hampden Park to the SFA for a fee of £5 million and made a promise of paying around £19 million in liabilities. The club still is allowed to play at the stadium till January 2021, when the period of the lease ends.

With a stadium that has a capacity of more than 50,000 hosting an average attendance of less than a thousand, Queen’s Park’s future at Hampden Park is soon going to come to a sorry end. The club now has to move to Lesser Hampden, a ground adjacent to the stadium with a capacity of just over 1774 to play its home games.

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