The Third Hampden 1903-2000
We can argue about when the Third Hampden was replaced, but the end really came in 1970 at the European Cup Semi-Final between Celtic and Leeds United. 136,505 were officially there. This is understatement, given the relative ease you could get in by a) climbing over the wall, or b) slipping a few shillings to a friendly turnstile operator.
However, let us go back to the late 1890s. Rangers and Celtic had become giant clubs. They had built not one, but two stadiums each. Queen’s Park said that, when the Second Hampden was built, it was the best ground in Scotland. By 1900 it wasn’t even the best ground in Glasgow.
Clubs build football grounds. That, on its own, is not a reason to put the Third Hampden into a book about how Scotland invented modern world football. No. It is the attitude, planning and brilliance of idea that makes Hampden stand out above and beyond its peers. And, by the way, this info box is also intended to give you the facts and analysis to smash down any nonsense which involves Football’s Coming Home or Wembley, Home of Football.
Queen’s had to move, because they saw that Rangers and Celtic had passed them out and built bigger and better stadiums. They also had the problem that they could not develop the Second Hampden because their landlord could not sell. It turns out that half of the ground was owned by someone else.
So, QPFC looked elsewhere and found the land around Clincart Farm. There was coal under the ground. There were old coal pits, nearby but the land to the south and east was farmland. The Aikenhead pit was operating just on the what is now the grass bit south of the Toryglen Football Centre. Remember this fact, when someone complains about where they sited football grounds. When Hampden was built, it was on the edge of the countryside.
Surveys showed that the coal was too expensive to dig. Malls Myre Burn could be culverted, so they had a cracking place for a new ground, which had the space to grow bigger and better than Ibrox and Celtic Park. It certainly did. The statistics are extraordinary. In 1937, when another round of improvements had been made, it officially held about 184,500. This was if you used the stairways to stand on.
Many old timers will now be asking ‘what stairways?’ There are many, many times when the official attendance was above 130,000, but the place was packed. At 130,000 the Stadium would have been two thirds full. The answer lies in the Info Box on Hampden Crowds.
How could this stadium be a world leader, again? Well, the terracing was now seriously large. The England game of 1906 was seen by 102,471. In 1908, 121,452 saw the England match. A new world record (again) was set in 1912 with 127,307 at the England game. The 1937 Scotland v England game had an official attendance (yeah, I know) of 149,415. A week later 147,365 saw the Scottish Cup Final between Celtic and Aberdeen. The last gasp for giant crowds was the European Cup Semi-Final between Celtic and Leeds United in 1970. 136,505 officially. Every one of these gates is an underestimate. If the ground was full, there were 180,000 in it.
Between 1903 and the start of the Second World War, Queen’s Park experimented with improvements to the ground. Solid earth terracing, particularly after the Ibrox Disaster of 1902. During a Scotland v England game, the wooden terracing at the west end collapsed, killing 25 fans. Crush barriers of steel rope between uprights were tested and then replaced with the tube steel efforts, we still see in old grounds.
The South Stand was actually two stands, with an empty space in the middle. The space was filled in with a pavilion in 1914. That included offices, press facilities, changing rooms. You know if you have a photo of Hampden after 1909, if the turnstiles in the north west corner on Somerville Drive, are brick and look like wee castles. The wood and galvanised sheeting turnstiles were burnt down by Rangers and Celtic fans in the riot of 1909. The Celtic End (East Terrace) was extended. A North Stand was built. All the improvements kept Hampden as the largest stadium in the world until the Maracanã was built in 1950, for the Brazilian World Cup.
Why are these statistics such a big deal. Don’t forget - Hampden was one of three giant stadiums in a city of 1.1 million people and a small country of 5 million. The fact that one city had the three largest club grounds in the world, gives us an idea about the depth of support for the Scotch Professors’ invention.
Queen’s Park had become a team that did not trouble the trophy engravers, by the 1930s. This did not matter. Their record club attendance was set at 95,722 in a Scottish Cup game v Rangers. This record beats every game, at every club ground, in every year of English football in England. Ever. 18th January 1930, when the ground was still seven years away from reaching its greatest capacity.
Hampden Park is the oldest continuously used international football ground in the world. It holds every single attendance record in Europe. It is no surprise at all, that Hampden hosted one of the most important friendlies of all time in 1947: Great Britain v The Rest of Europe. It is no surprise that the greatest attendance of all-time at a European Cup Final remains the 127,621 who saw Real Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3.
The Wembley White Horse Cup Final of 1923 is a nonsense. I have seen suggestions of 300,000 at the game, from websites that should know better than to put up such rubbish. Official capacity 127,000. Twenty years late and 55,000 short. In any case, the most regular sport at Wembley was greyhound racing. That is what paid the bills after World War Two.
Hampden Park was owned and run by the Club who hosted the world’s first international, played in the inaugural year of the two first national cup competitions and helped found three of the first four national associations. And it was built for the game invented by Scotland.