Cricket, football and rugby will all benefit from major revamp of Inch Park

THREE Capital sports clubs are seeing an ambitious scheme come to life as hundreds of footballers, cricketers and rugby players stand to benefit from the redevelopment of Inch Park in the Liberton area of the Capital.

Work began recently in laying the foundations of a new pavilion at the playing fields, located to the rear of Cameron Toll shopping centre between Gilmerton Road and Old Dalkeith Road, while plans for the site also include re-mapping the current pitch layout to maximise potential use by Edinburgh South Cricket Club and their footballing namesakes, as well as Lismore RFC.

Kelvin Hurd, leader of Edinburgh South Football Club, says his organisation will finally be able to move forward after initial negotiations with Edinburgh City Council in the mid-1990s.

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"We were in negotiations with the council 15 years ago," he said. "A few other people got to know about our plans and the club was approached five years ago by Malcolm Gillies at Lismore RFC, who suggested the two clubs join resources and develop the facility at Inch Park along with the local cricket club."

Together, the three entities formed the Inch Park Community Sports Club, which comprises representatives from each club, and under an agreement with the council, land at the vast area of playing fields will be leased to the organisation for "common good," while remaining open to the public.

"The clubs will get preferential use of the land," explained Hurd. "At present, we have a permit for use of the land, but we are merely 'sitting tenants,' and the council maintains the pitch.

"The difficulty at the moment is with the lack of control we have over the facilities. We've got to use the bigger pitch down there three or four times a week and, when it's flooded, we have to shut it down to avoid wear and tear, which has a big impact on fixtures towards the end of the season."

Under the new proposals, the land adjacent to Inch House will be carved up to form two seven-a-side pitches, one full-size football field and two dedicated rugby fields, and a cricket wicket.

Edinburgh Leisure will continue to maintain a separate full-size football pitch next to the landmark feature of the site, a new two-storey pavilion that it is hoped will be completed by the summer and that will replace the disused gym at the now-closed King's Inch School. "We will have control over the use of the pitches," said Hurd.

"One of our recent games on a Sunday was called off by the council, but when I went down to the park the cricket club was playing a match – no-one had told them – so this new arrangement will allow better co-ordination between everyone. It'll also allow us to be more flexible, as currently the council has to call off games two days in advance."

Ian Flynn, coach of South's under-14 footballers, outlined ambitions to realise ideas of specialised training for players and plans to extend the club's reach in terms of attracting players outwith the confines of their spiritual home on Edinburgh's south side. "We have homegrown boys, but we want to give boys outwith the area a platform to go on," he said. "There's scope for SFA coaches to hold training sessions at our club, with both players and coaches.

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"We're establishing links with the University of Edinburgh to get sports science lecturers and students to focus on our players' running styles, movement and balance, and someone like that will also be able to give an insight into routines for boys progressing to professional level."

Flynn is also pleased that the venture among the three clubs will also allow greater participation in each discipline, as membership is currently at saturation point.

"Every week we have 40 boys aged 4-6 attending our Soccer School, and having better facilities will allow us to stage these sorts of events more often, especially during school holidays," said Flynn.

"We have 300 players registered at the moment, with generally one team at each age group. There will now be the opportunity to increase that to two teams. In South Edinburgh at present, the facilities are either ridiculous or they're ridiculously expensive."

South chairman Brian Waugh anticipates a change in identity for the club, founded in 1969, as it moves into the new decade with confidence.

"This project allows us to think long-term as far as financial planning is concerned. The cost of pitch hire has been prohibitive and doesn't allow us to plan," he said. "We have an incredible structure with the boys coming through from the soccer school to the youth teams. The thing we gain from this project is a cohesive identity – we're working to create a real 'brand'.

"By building a ground, we're creating an identity and attracting boys to the club. That comes with being in control of your own identity. The community sports club is looking to fund a development officer, and we have secured money for that. The role will be to liaise with the community on behalf of all three clubs, and we're looking to appoint someone in the next year."