EDINBURGH Rugby will almost certainly not play their home games at Easter Road next season, but the possibility that the club could return at some point in the future to the venue they last inhabited during the 1998-99 season remains alive.
Neither the Scottish Rugby Union nor Hibernian Football Club were prepared to officially respond to a report which appeared in the Press yesterday morning suggesting that a switch may be imminent. However, it was accepted that productive conversations between the two organisations have taken place.
Concerns about the pitch being big enough and whether the playing surface can cope with hosting around 14 professional rugby matches a season on top of its current workload are likely to be key considerations in these discussions. It certainly seems that the SRU view Easter Road as being ideally suited to hosting professional rugby matches. Two years ago, they earmarked the ground to host the Amlin Cup Final as part of their unsuccessful bid to stage the 2014 Heineken Cup Final at Murrayfield.
In an ideal world, the governing body would love to replicate the success Glasgow Warriors have had since linking up with Glasgow City Council to make Scotstoun Stadium their permanent base, but the likelihood of Edinburgh’s local authority committing to a plan to drag Meadowbank Stadium into the 21st century grows more remote with every passing year.
The unsuitability of vast and cavernous Murrayfield, with a capacity of 67,800, to the role of hosting Edinburgh matches is a long-established fact. The club has attracted an average home crowd of just 4,864 for their home Guinness Pro12 league matches this season, and that number is grossly inflated by the 15,810 at the national stadium for the capital outfit’s 1872 Cup clash against arch-rivals Glasgow Warriors. If you don’t include that game, the average attendance drops to just 3,647.
There have been suspicions in the past that the SRU have been paying lip-service to the idea of finding a new home for Edinburgh, but were, in reality, not overly keen on spending money renting somewhere when they already own a functional venue in the city.
However, Mark Dodson, who has been chief executive of the organisation since September 2011, has shown far more willingness to speculate in order to accumulate than his predecessor, Gordon McKie – and sources close to the Yorkshireman insist that he is absolutely committed to solving Edinburgh’s problem.