Groundtastic – Scots Scene – Winter 2003

Groundtastic – Scots Scene – Winter 2003

I watch a lot of YouTube videos in bed at night in an attempt to lull myself to sleep. I have mixed results with this tactic. It sometimes works if I am in the mood to listen to some soft rock, but most of the time I opt for punk rock bands of the 70’s or Britpop anthems from the 90’s.These tracks only serve to energise me, but last night I found myself having to make the conscious decision to turn off my tv in the wee small hours of the morning. I had been watching the vlogs of Footy Adventures, which I would heartily recommend to those of you who are interested in football stadiums and architecture.

I stopped watching one video where our knowledgeable guide was visiting all 42 football league grounds in Scotland. I did not want to switch this off, but if anyone needs their beauty sleep then it is me.

These vlogs reminded me of a series of articles that I was sharing with my blog readers, back in 2015/16.

Between 2002-2008 I was Scottish Correspondent for the wonderfully professional Groundtastic – The Football Grounds Magazine. I can not speak highly enough of the editors and contributors to this glossy magazine that is jam-packed with interesting information and photographic gold.

I haven’t been a subscriber to the magazine since my marriage imploded in 2008 and I was forced to leave Scotland. Since then my dexterity has deteriorated to such an extent that I now find it impossible to simply thumb through a magazine.

Imagine my excitement then when I visited the Groundtastic website to discover that they now have a digital edition available I’ll definitely be subscribing.

Anyway, over the next few months I will be sharing a number of articles that I penned during my time North of the Border, including my regular Scots Scene news round-up of potential football ground developments and improvements. The following is from Winter 2003 and it will be evident to ground enthusiasts and football fans just how much has changed from the era in which it was written…

To view the previous Scots Scene articles that I wrote in Winter 2002, Spring 2003, Summer 2003 and Autumn 2003 click here.

Enjoy a short step back in time.


The proposed groundshare between HIBERNIAN and HEARTS looks doomed. The two Edinburgh clubs have been in talks over a plan to share a purpose-built stadium in Straiton but Hibs seem to have gone cold on the idea. Managing director Rod Petrie has claimed that the club’s desire was always to stay at Easter Road. “We are working hard to look at the ideas which have come from the listening groups and forums. All our focus and attention is engaged at looking at ways in which we can develop the club’s revenues at Easter Road,” said Petrie.

Hibs even offered Hearts a home at Easter Road – a proposal that was, not surprisingly, dismissed immediately. Hibs now have plans to build a new East Stand and complete redevelopment of Easter Road.

Where does all this leave Hearts? Chief Executive Chris Robinson admitted a move to Murrayfield could be on the cards and has been in talks with the Scottish Rugby Union.

“We will continue to have discussions with Murrayfield. This does not close out any other options,” said Robinson. 

However, it seems pointless playing in a stadium that holds 67,000 when the average gate at Tynecastle is around 11,000 and local residents aren’t enamoured with the idea either. Robert Smart, chairman of Murrayfield Community Council, said: “There’s going to be major opposition if the SRU and Hearts go through with this because of the disruption people already suffer when events are held at Murrayfield. People are prepared to live with it three of four times a year but if Hearts were to play their home matches here you’d be talking about a game every second Saturday and in midweek regularly as well. We’re talking about serious disruption, which is without doubt going to have an impact on property prices. As well as the traffic congestion and the parking problems, we’re also going to have people drinking in the streets and using stairwells and gardens as toilets.”

Meanwhile, Hearts Youth Academy at Heriot Watt University, which looked set to be delayed due to a financial hitch, is now back on course. It is hoped that the Jambos playing and coaching staff will be able to move into the new facility – that will boast an indoor training area, full sized natural and synthetic pitches, medical areas and a gym – by the end of March.


There has been a mixed reaction to DUNFERMLINE’S new artificial pitch. After East End Park hosted the first competitive game on the new surface between Dunfermline and Hibernian, it was clear that players needed more time to adapt to the pitch. The astroturf is conducive to a fast, passing game but players complained about the lack of cushion given when turning. “It did look early on as if it would be a major problem because quite a few players weren’t keeping their feet, but once they got used to it, it was better,” said Hibs boss Bobby Williamson. “Someone has to find out what the best footwear for the surface is, because at the moment it’s just trial and error. The people who make the pitch should make the footwear,” continued Williamson.

However, the biggest victim of the pitch was the male streaker who ran onto the pitch and did a swan dive in front of the home fans, which left him with painful burns to his chest.


KILMARNOCK has decided to close the Rugby Road entrance to the ground to cars after a number of minor incidents involving speeding cars. Access can still be gained on foot and match day access will be as normal. The club has also reiterated their policy on supporters flags, which will only be permitted into Rugby Park provided they are not paramilitary in nature, not offensive, not attached to poles, not made of a flammable material and are not of a size and dimension that would restrict view, cause annoyance or be a hazard to public safety.


Following Scotland and Ireland’s failed bid to host the 2008 European Championships, the SFA have decided to put together a bid for the right to stage the European Under-21 Championships. The grounds put forward as possible venues are DUNDEE’S Dens Park,

HIBERNIAN’S Easter Road, KILMARNOCK’S Rugby Park and PARTICK THISTLE’S Firhill Stadium. A UEFA delegation visited the venues in October but a final decision will not be made until December 11.


CLYDE received a massive boost in October when they got the go-ahead to build a forth stand at Broadwood. Construction has already started and is part of an ambitious project funded by North Lanarkshire Council. An indoor athletics complex will be added later along with a three-quarter size artificial pitch and additional car park spaces. Once the work is completed Broadwood’s capacity will be over 10,000 – the contractors are confident the work will be completed by the SPL’s March 31 deadline – meaning Clyde would be eligible for promotion if they can get their act together on the pitch.  Alan Kernaghan hopes he can help put the final piece in the jigsaw by May: “It’s a big step forward and I’m glad the council have agreed to take the project on. The stadium will now be a much more attractive venue and should be able to host more top events. From our point of view, everything is now in order and no questions will be asked if we earn the right to go into the SPL, which is vital because we didn’t want to end up in another Falkirk situation. It’s down to us to take the chance now.”


Asda have renewed their interest in INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE’S ground. The supermarket giants have been planning to build a store in the capital of the Highlands and had been in negotiations with ICT over the purchase and subsequent redevelopment of Caledonian Stadium. However, all this was on hold as Asda tried to buy out Safeway. Inverness is already home to two Safeway stores so if successful Asda would not have needed to build a new store. In the end though the Competition’s Commission decided to block bids from Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s and it was Morrison’s who won the takeover bid. Subsequently, Asda are now back in talks with ICT. Alan Sellar – Chairman of the trust that operates Caledonian Stadium on behalf of the football club – said; “I’m pleased the issue of the Safeway takeover has been resolved and now we can move forward. We’re expecting to have a meeting with them soon and hopefully, we can get some of the outstanding issues resolved.” If such a development went through, ICT would move to a purpose built, SPL compliant stadium elsewhere in the city. No site has yet been agreed and this route does not solve ICT’s most pressing problem of what action to take if they are promoted to the SPL this season. Chairman Ken Mackie revealed that the Highlanders are set to apply to the local council for planning permission for the construction of temporary stands. “We did look at this at the end of last season and had discussions with the SPL. The outcome was that they didn’t mind if the stadium was temporary or permanent provided there was a safety certificate for 10,000 seats”, said Mackie. “It may not be the most beautiful looking set-up but it’s the same type of seating used at the Open golf championship and the Edinburgh Tattoo.”


RAITH ROVERS have eliminated their bank debt and repaid creditors by selling Stark’s Park and leasing it back. The Kirkcaldy club has sold the freehold of their ground to West City Developments Ltd but has the option to buy back the ground at anytime should it be able to finance the transaction. The new landlords are former Rovers board members Turnbull Hutton and Colin McGowan and they have shown their commitment to the cause by announcing a phased maintenance programme for the already SPL compliant stadium. Raith Secretary Eric Drysdale said; “We are relieved that we are no longer carrying an enormous debt burden. As a banker myself I am very well aware of the hardening of banks’ attitudes towards football clubs in general. Now, with Turnbull and Colin as our new landlords, supporters need have no worries about the new set up. There is no ‘hidden agenda’ – this was simply the best solution to the club’s major financial worries.”

Rovers have also recently launched the ‘Sponsor a Fan’ scheme, which is aimed at raising funds to reopen the Railway Stand at Stark’s Park. The Stand has been closed for three years and many will be delighted to hear of plans to renovate and reopen. Supporters are being asked to contribute by paying £20 to have their names put on a ‘virtual fan’, which will then take its place in the stand on matchdays.  


Raith are following ST JOHNSTONE’S lead as the Perthshire club have their own ‘Sponsor a Fan’ campaign. The scheme has been introduced to fill the Ormond Stand, which will be closed all year. Paul Fraser, Marketing Executive at McDiarmid Park said, “Last year we used the Ormond Stand as our family stand. After failing to win promotion back to the SPL it did not make financial sense – stewards, police, kiosk staff – to continue to keep this stand open, when we have adequate room in our East Stand to accommodate the family support. Accordingly, we offered families East Stand season tickets as an alternative to and the Ormond Stand remains empty.  Consequently, we decided to brighten up this empty stand and the idea of cardboard cutouts, and Arsenal’s Highbury mural came to mind. We developed this idea a little further and arrived at the virtual fans we have in place today,” explains Fraser.

Once again it costs £20 to have your name on a ‘virtual fan’ and the club will send you a certificate to commemorate your involvement in the scheme.


Hopes are high that ST MIRREN will soon be on the move. The club hopes to sell their Love Street ground to a supermarket chain to wipe out their £1.2 million debts. They also received a major boost in their bid for a new stadium after council chiefs gave their target site the thumbs up. What’s more, Saints were given first option to buy the land they plan to develop at Greenhill Road.


FORFAR ATHLETIC have applied for planning permission to re-develop the North Stand at Station Park in a project costing around £450,000. The North Stand is currently 40 years old and has many seats with restricted views but the plans are for a two-tiered structure which would accommodate home, away and official’s dressing rooms, a boot room, physiotherapy room, gym, kit store, manager’s room and kitchen. In addition, the first floor will house a boardroom, kitchen and an entertainment suite.  “We want to replace the existing stand which is starting to show its age,” explained Forfar vice-chairman Neil Wilson. “It will be dependent largely on the funding we can secure. We have applied to sportscotland for funding and a lot will depend on their response. At the moment we have no disabled facilities – toilets or viewing area – but this would allow us to provide that.”

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