SRU chief operating officer Dominic McKay says he is “getting grey hairs” due to his frustration over the delay to building a new home for Edinburgh Rugby on the back pitches of BT Murrayfield and sharply contrasted the relationship the union has with the local authority across in Glasgow.
Last year Scottish rugby’s governing body received planning permission from City of Edinburgh Council for a 7,800-capacity stadium on its grounds, which has been termed “Mini Murrayfield” but work has yet to start on the project with McKay blaming council “red tape” over the delay. He said he was still hopeful that the new home could be up and running as early as possible next year but admitted he could offer no firm promises.
The plan was to have the new stadium built for the coming season but, in April, it was confirmed that snags meant the capital pro team would be back playing on the main international pitch for most of next season at least.
“I am growing grey hairs as a result of the time it is taking to work through some of the red tape in this city,” said McKay yesterday. “We’ve got a very positive experience through in Glasgow, where we’ve done some great work.”
The SRU are tenants of Glasgow Life, the leisure wing of the city’s council, at Scotstoun Stadium where Glasgow Warriors have built a successful home since 2012 and recently announced plans to expand the facility by up to more than 4,000 in additional capacity to around the 12,000 mark.
McKay was speaking at the national stadium yesterday at the announcement of a new sponsorship deal with Johnnie Walker whisky, which was attended by leading members of the capital city’s council.
“It’s great to see some of the colleagues here from the city [of Edinburgh Council] because we’ve got a developing relationship – an important relationship – but we need them to pull out the stops to make sure we can deliver this facility,” added McKay
“We’ve got our planning permission but there are a few bits of red tape to work through, so [it will be] as soon as possible.”
There has been a delay in obtaining building warrants after the planning process was called back in for scrutiny by elected councillors when it was ruled that the necessary seven objections for such a process had been fulfilled.
Last December the council’s chief planning officer David Leslie had to apologise as a representation from Murrayfield Ice Rink, which “both supports the growth and retention of Edinburgh Rugby” also raised an “objection to the intensification of use of the site”, which “on balance” should have been lodged as an objection but “incorrectly” wasn’t.
“There has been progress,” continued McKay. “Naturally, doing a facility as large as we’re trying to do takes some people a while to get their head around, so we’re working our way through that as fast as we possibly can.
“There is a big backlog at the moment… it’s not a glitch on our side.
“The thrust of the plans are the same. So, the planning permission we have received is unchanged but, naturally, as you work your way through dialogue and discussion around any sort of facility activity, you will tweak a few things but nothing significant.
“What we are particularly proud about is the importance of delivering for the fans for Edinburgh – we’ve said that for some considerable time – we want to give them a home we can all be proud of.
“We’ve got the land here, we’ve got the space here, we’ve got the vision and the money to make it happen so, hopefully, we can issue an update in the very near future.” The saga of Edinburgh Rugby’s search for a suitable home is a long-running one.
The 67,500 national stadium has proven an atmosphere-lacking cavern for a team who attract 3-5,000 for a regular home fixture, although “event” attendance of 20-40,000 can be drawn in for derby matches against Glasgow and big European games, such as last season’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against Munster at the end of March.
Edinburgh have tried alternative venues at places such as Meadowbank and Myreside but ended up returning to Murrayfield for the last few months of the 2017-18 season.
Asked if he hoped “Mini Murrayfield” could yet be raedy at some stage in the 2019-20 season, McKay said: “I would very much hope so. That is our expectation. But I don’t want to make any promises that are not in our control to deliver. If it was in our control, it would be built by now.”