Plans for rugby academy in Sighthill set for boost

SRU chief executive Mark Dodson
SRU chief executive Mark Dodson
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Scottish rugby’s plans for an academy based in Edinburgh’s Sighthill and using some public money could take a major step forward next week.

City of Edinburgh Council announced today that Tuesday’s meeting of the Culture & Sport Committee will be asked to agree investment of £130,000 into pre-existing rugby and football facilities as well as new tennis and basketball courts.

Designed to boost participation in outdoor sport in the Capital, under the proposals, City of Edinburgh Council will be asked to allocate £50,000 as it works in partnership with Scottish Rugby and Edinburgh Napier University to locate the BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy in Sighthill.

Rugby academies for four Scottish districts are to be a staple of remuneration for selling Murrayfield naming rights to BT with former Boroughmuir and Scotland scrum half Graeme Beveridge appointed to head up the Edinburgh facility.

With the SRU and the Council working in tandem, hopes will be high that agreement can be reached to provide a suitable home for Edinburgh Rugby somewhere down the line.

Meantime, the project will enable a stream of selected young players to follow their performance pathway, alongside hosting rugby skills camps through contacts with local schools.

The changing pavilion in Sighthill Park will be upgraded as part of the works being undertaken for the Academy, and Edinburgh Leisure will continue to manage the bookings for the pitches which will remain accessible to local people and clubs.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Culture & Sport Convener, said: “We have a range of outdoor courts and pitches in Edinburgh but some sites are being better used than others. By upgrading and adding to the facilities we already have, we will hope to inspire more people to get into outdoor sport and physical activity.

“The BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy will support young and aspiring rugby players as they develop their skills and aim to reach their full potential, whether at a club or professional level, but we are also conscious of the needs of local pitch users

“In Sighthill Park we have five football pitches but they are being under-used. By partnering with the University, we could offer a new home for Napier’s pitch sports teams, while also offering better facilities for local users, schools and community groups.”

Mark Dodson, SRU Chief Executive, added: “The BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academies are a key pillar of our strategy to give young, talented boys and girls the chance to develop their rugby and life skills, close to home. We have been working for some time with our partners, Edinburgh Napier University and City of Edinburgh Council to develop this project and we hope this important first step at Sighthill can be taken.”

The Council will also be asked to provide £10,000 to complete the re-instatement of two tennis courts and creation of a new basketball court in Victoria Park, to be opened in time for the school summer break with free taster sessions. The rest of the cost is being met by the North Edinburgh Partnership and sportscotland.

Under a Section 75 Agreement with developers of the former Agilent site in Queensferry, £70,000 is available to the Council to be reinvested in local sports facilities in the area. Councillors will consider using the funding to convert grass football pitches into all-weather 3G pitches which can accommodate rugby as well as football training.