Hearts get go-ahead for ground switch to Murrayfield

HEARTS have been given the green light to move into Murrayfield Stadium in time for the start of next season if the club goes ahead with plans to sell Tynecastle.

The Gorgie club’s directors announced last week that they intend to sell their long-term home in an attempt to pay off debts that have risen to 17.6 million. Hearts would then lease Murrayfield for matchdays, and base the day-to-day activities of the club at their new youth academy at Riccarton.

Phil Anderton, the Scottish Rugby Union’s commercial and marketing director, made it clear that the door is open for Hearts as he spoke of a new level of discussions between rugby’s governing body and their footballing neighbours.

In announcing a 25 per cent discount for Celtic Cup Final tickets for anyone attending the Hearts v Kilmarnock match the week before, Anderton said: "Discussions are ongoing but we have moved beyond the initial chat about the possibility into real deliberations over whether it will happen.

"We have agreement in principle from the SRU’s general committee and the executive board, and although we would still have much to consider before it took place, there are no problems to the idea of football being played at Murrayfield, and no great impediment to that happening as early as next season.

"What it does hinge on, however, is Hearts. Do Hearts want to move? Are the finances right for them and for us? That is something we are both looking at, but there will be no decisions taken until they come back to us with an answer to the first question."

Anderton is ploughing ahead, however, with the stiff task of trying to attract a crowd worth talking about to the historic first professional cup final in Scotland, on 20 December.

Ulster have a special ferry travel offer running and are expecting a record travelling support to make the trip while Heriot’s and Boroughmuir have led the way for rugby clubs in Scotland by moving their important Division One match to February to allow their supporters, players and officials to attend the game.

Chris Paterson will front a television advertising campaign next week and Scott Murray, new Scotland assistant coach Todd Blackadder, Brendan Laney and Simon Taylor are all in action against Ulster on the day. Other internationalists have signed up to play Santas, and it is to be hoped that the Scottish players bearing gifts will be confined to those dressed in red robes.

Three suites in Murrayfield’s west stand are being opened up as clubrooms with bars and family areas for the day, and supporters are being encouraged to take a gift to place under the SRU Christmas Tree, with presents to be donated to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.

Other initiatives, including free coaches, cashback of 50 per cent of ticket sales for schools and clubs, money off Edinburgh and Scotland strips and the usual Test match fireworks and entertainment, are all part of what the SRU clearly hope could mark a major lift for the professional game in Scotland.