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SRU chiefs seek Murrayfield stadium name change sponsor to help pay off debts

Murrayfield stadium. Picture: TSPL

Murrayfield stadium. Picture: TSPL

RUGBY bosses are considering selling off the naming rights for Murrayfield Stadium in an attempt to plug a multi-million-pound hole in their finances.

The Evening News can reveal that the SRU will attempt to raise a seven-figure sum from allowing private firms to bid to have their name added to the national stadium.

Negotiations with commercial parties are already under way as the governing body seeks to pay off a £13m debt.

Mark Dodson, the SRU chief executive, said: “We are considering naming rights at Murrayfield. I have been working on a plan to look at that as part of our imagery going forward.

“We have had it valued. We are just checking on those values [but] it is millions per year. You can look at the whole stadium or [separate] stands.

“We are evaluating opportunities. There is an interest.”

The practice is already prevalent in football. In 2004, Arsenal signed a £100m deal with Emirates to have their new stadium named after the airline firm, though the deal also included an eight-year shirt sponsorship.

In 2006, the New York Mets baseball team sold their stadium naming rights to Citigroup for £250m over 20

years.

In August 2011, Hibs fans were asked if they would accept a change of name for Easter Road as part of a wide-ranging supporters’ survey – with Crabbie’s Easter Road Stadium among the examples given at the time.

However, when Newcastle United went down a similar route by calling St James’ Park the Sports Direct Arena there was uproar amongst fans.

Mr Dodson admitted there is likely to be a similar backlash regarding a stadium which opened in 1925 and which, over the years, has played host to a range of high-profile events.

These include an open air mass conducted by Pope John Paul II, the G8 concert and Madonna’s recent tour.

Dodson said he is confident commercial reality will prevail and that a market exists for the sale.

He said: “There will always be a reaction against. There will always be people who would find that a bridge too far, but one of our main pieces of inventory in the whole of Scottish rugby is our national stadium. And, at the end of the day, it will probably drive the biggest price.

“If we want that biggest price to be achieved we can put all that money into grassroots and solve a lot of problems at that level.”

Meanwhile, the SRU is currently examining finding a new home for Edinburgh Rugby.

The professional side has operated out of the 67,500-capacity Murrayfield and frequently struggles to pull more than a few thousand fans to each game.

The new mini stadium at Edinburgh Accies, which would have a capacity of 2500 seated or 5000 standing, has been suggested as a possible future ground in recent months.

However, Mr Dodson suggested that a larger purpose-built stadium may be needed.

He said: “We want to get Edinburgh a new home and so therefore we would not make it [naming rights] contingent on them playing in the national

stadium.

“It is important to get a 10-15,000 seater stadium for Edinburgh. We are looking at that with the council and

others.

“We are making progress but Edinburgh is a difficult place to build. We have to be patient but we are clear in our objective and have a realistic view of what it will take to do that.

“It is possible in a couple of years time Edinburgh will have a new stadium. If you can identify land these things can be up and running in between 18 months and two years.

“We are working hard behind the scenes.”

FIELD OF DREAMS

HERE’S our wry look at some possible stadium sponsors:

• Phenomenal Irn-Bru Superdome: Sponsored by AG Barr.

• Souterdome or Gloag Bowl: Backed by Stagecoach owners Brian Souter and Ann Gloag.

• Yes Scotland Arena: With free independence voting slips.

• Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer-drome: With retractable chocolate roof . . .

• Ultimo Park: Bra tycoon Michelle Mone can set her sights on the world of rugby.

 

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