THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Celtic likely to play at Murrayfield

icon maracana12 November ~ Celtic recently proposed playing a European home tie in England or Dublin. UEFA rules on venue switches aren't that fluid, yet last week Celtic revisited the fourth stadium to host a competitive match between themselves and Ajax. Parkhead, Hampden and Amsterdam's Olympic Stadium were all used before their 2001-02 Champions League qualifier at the Amsterdam Arena. But if a coefficient anomaly pairs them in next summer's qualifying rounds, Celtic v Ajax will have that fifth venue, while Glasgow's big football stadiums host the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Champions League regulations state that venue changes must be accommodated in the same city or country as the applicant club's home ground. So rather than Old Trafford, Croke Park or the Aviva Stadium, Celtic will probably use Murrayfield. The Edinburgh home of Scottish rugby has already hosted Hearts in both the UEFA Cup group stage and Champions League qualifiers and is the only Scottish stadium with a larger capacity than Parkhead's 60,000.

Nevertheless, it's understandable Celtic would attempt to nurture their Irish or English audience this way. The current situation in Russia sees scheduled venues changing by distances far greater than Glasgow to Dublin. Juventus and Real Madrid last week met competitively at a sixth ground. And the collective Celtic memory recalls other venue switches easily misinterpreted as precedents. 

Ajax switched their first home ties with Celtic to Amsterdam's Olympic Stadium because it was more than twice the capacity of their compact home at the time, De Meer. This was the norm for big Ajax games before the Arena opened in 1996. Celtic moved their 1971 Glasgow clash with Ajax to Hampden because doing the same with their European Cup semi-final against Leeds the previous season, due to rebuilding work at Parkhead, resulted in a crowd of 136,505. This remains the record for European club competition.

Elsewhere in Glasgow, Partick Thistle's Firhill hosted Swedish club Djurgardens' home leg against Hibs in the inaugural European Cup quarter-finals; Rangers played Russia's Anzhi Makhachkala in neutral Poland in the first round of the 2001-02 UEFA Cup; Old Trafford hosted Celtic's replayed second leg against Rapid Vienna in the 1984-85 Cup-Winners Cup; seven years earlier, in the same competition, Home Park, Plymouth replaced Manchester United's ground for their second leg against St Etienne.

However these switches were respectively attributable to Scandinavian weather, Foreign Office safety advice on Dagestan and UEFA punishments, of varying validity, for indiscretions in the previous meeting. Rapid played the 1984 home leg against Celtic at their Gerhard Hanappi stadium in the Hutteldorf area of Vienna. Yet, when the clubs met again in the 2009-10 Europa League, Rapid, as per this season, held group games at the city's much larger Ernst Happel Stadium.

This is also where Austria Vienna currently play their Champions League home matches. But, from the days it was known as the Prater, Austria's national stadium has indeed hosted the whole country. Everything from SV Stockerau against Spurs in the preliminaries of the 1991-92 Cup-Winners Cup to Casino (now Red Bull) Austria Salzburg's home leg of the 1993-94 UEFA Cup final, against Internazionale.

Salzburg's home ground of 20 years ago wasn't deemed big enough. Yet the Stadion Lehen was itself the temporary home of Wacker Innsbruck when they welcomed a big name in the 1977-78 European Cup – Celtic. The rules might be immovable but the term "at home in Europe" has always been pretty fluid. Alex Anderson

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