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 Summer 2004 and it will be evident to ground enthusiasts and football fans just how much has changed from the era in which it was written…
Enjoy a short step back in time.
The SPL held an extraordinary general meeting at the end of March and finally permitted ground sharing between member clubs. HEARTS were given permission to groundshare at Murrayfield, DUNDEE at Tannadice, FALKIRK at Dunfermline’s East End Park and CLYDE at Kilmarnock’s Rugby Park. All cases were subject to a legally binding contract being in place by May 30 and were subject to further verification and approval by the SPL. As clubs are only allowed one registered ground per season any arrangements made apply for the whole of 2004/05. This momentous decision increased the number of options available to clubs with ground problems – particularly those still gunning for promotion to the SPL.
At the time of going to press it is unclear who will clinch the First Division title but weather it is CLYDE or INVERNESS CT it seems they could both benefit from the new SPL ruling. Both clubs applied for a period of grace to comply with the SPL’s strict stadium criteria – work is still ongoing on Clyde’s fourth stand at Broadwood after financial problems while ICT wanted to examine plans to install temporary seating while building a new stadium – but this was denied as it was to Falkirk last season. Clyde were not too upset as their additional proposal to groundshare at Rugby Park was accepted but it appeared as if ICT were being – in the words of chairman Ken Mackie – “geographically discriminated against”. The nearest suitable stadium to groundshare is ABERDEEN’S Pittodrie – over 100 miles away. However, after a fans poll narrowly came out in favour of a groundshare the club entered negotiations with Aberdeen and hoped to reach an agreement by the May 31 deadline. With Scottish football in such a financial mess it is not clear how either of these clubs will be able to afford to lease a SPL compliant stadium and fund the upkeep of their own ground.
The new groundshare rule has not had such an effect on long established SPL clubs, HEARTS and DUNDEE who have decided to stay put at their traditional homes. Supporters of the Jambo’s were never happy about the proposed move to Murrayfield but thanks to fan power and the arrival of George Foulkes MP as the new chairman, these plans have been shelved until 2005/06. Foulkes succeeded Doug Smith who was chairman of the board that decided to sell Tynecastle and rent Murrayfield to reduce the club’s debts. This idea was trumpeted by much maligned chief executive Chris Robinson who failed to convince supporters of the viability of such a move. Indeed, Robinson was attacked outside Tynecastle by angry fans after returning from the controversial SPL general meeting. It was not until Foulkes took control that a compromise was found and even Robinson has been converted to the plan to postpone any move: “It would look like we are staying at Tynecastle for now. That will be announced after an important meeting with SMG and the Bank of Scotland [the club’s main creditors]. George Foulkes will form an action group to search for Plan B and look for a stadium venue beyond Murrayfield,” said Robinson, who ruled out remaining at Tynecastle beyond 2004/05. As Tynecastle no longer complies with European regulations, Murrayfield will have to be used for UEFA Cup ties.
DUNDEE will be playing their home games at Dens Park next season. Administrators Ernst & Young had caused concern amongst fans of the financially ruined club when they announced three options, approved by the SPL – stay at Dens, remain at the ground as tenants to a new owner or most controversially a groundshare with rivals United at Tannadice. However, following negotiations with creditors and a detailed review the decision was made to stay at their spiritual home. It’s not all good news though as there will be a 25% hike in ticket prices so the club can work in an agreed budget and administrator Tom Burton has not ruled out a future move away from Dens Park. “We are pleased that the club will play its football at Dens Park next season and were aware that some of the club’s supporters were against the rental of Tannadice, but Dens Park is not a permanent solution for the club,” he said. “We now have a breathing space to look in detail at a range of options including redevelopment, ground sharing at a neutral stadium or the building of a new stadium in Dundee,” concluded Burton. Dundee’s decision to stay put also means they have to budget for the installation of under-soil heating – now a requisite of SPL membership – for the beginning of 2004/05. Burton asked the SPL to waive this rule for Dundee while they sort out their finances but the league chiefs refused.
After the new regulations were announced, PARTICK THISTLE, ST MIRREN and FALKIRK all threatened legal action against the SPL. These clubs had struggled to comply with previously strict ground criteria and were unhappy that they did not have the groundshare option. However, it looks as if these threats will not be acted upon after Partick – the leader of the protests – decided to grudgingly accept the ruling despite spending £900,000 last season to get Firhill up to SPL standards.
RANGERS are planning a £120 million, entertainment complex on the land next to Ibrox. The project – in partnership with Las Vegas Sands Ltd – includes a casino, flats, a community sports facility, a health care centre and hotel and conference facilities. If such a development goes ahead it will also result in the relocation of the current Ibrox community Astroturf facilities and the construction of a new community sports facility, a club ticket centre and a cafe. If planning permission is granted the complex could be completed by autumn 2007.”The development of this campus is a key demonstration of our strategy of diversifying the Rangers brand into a wide range of leisure and entertainment complex orientated activities and franchises,” said chairman John McClelland. “The financial return to the club from these initiatives will be substantial and will make an important contribution to our annual income.”
DUNFERMLINE have been told by UEFA that they must switch venues for ‘home’ European ties if opponents refuse to play on East End Park’s synthetic turf – installed with UEFA money. Dunfermline chairman John Yorkston didn’t seem too concerned though. “I don’t think continental teams are as worried about playing on artificial surfaces as British teams – for example, Dutch teams use them to train on a lot.” Should such a situation arise the most likely venues would be Raith Rovers’ Stark’s Park, Hibernian’s Easter Road or McDiarmid Park, home of St Johnstone – depending on the calibre of opposition.
Meanwhile, HEARTS have received the keys for their new football academy at Heriot-Watt University – – an official opening ceremony was scheduled for the end of May. The £6m project is only the second of its kind in the whole of Scotland. Assistant boss Peter Houston said: “The outdoor and indoor Astroturf has been earmarked for use and we’ll be having a couple of sessions out there each week from now on. What we won’t be touching until pre-season are the grass pitches, as we need to let them grow properly first. From this July though, it will be in continual use. It’s a major boost for the whole club.”
ST MIRREN chairman Stewart Gilmour has claimed the only way the club will survive is by moving from their Love Street home. Soil samples have been taken from the site of the proposed new stadium in Greenhill Road, Paisley – land which Renfrewshire Council has already agreed to sell to the Buddies. The plan is to sell Love Street for supermarket development, pay off the club’s debt and build a new ground. However, before any of this can be achieved St Mirren need to win planning consent for a supermarket to replace their current home. “It is the only viable alternative to the club facing a financial catastrophe,” warned Gilmour.
The temporary stand erected at Ochilview to accommodate FALKIRK supporters was uncovered for the final two games of 2003/04. The seating company required the covers for another location to which they were already contracted when they agreed to take on the Falkirk contract. As an apology for any inconvenience, season tickets holders were given a complimentary programme and discounted prices were offered for fans paying through the turnstiles.