One year after the opening of Oriam – the national performance centre for sport – and the man at the helm believes the benefits already validate the money spent on the build, citing Scottish rugby’s rise as one example. But he insists that with Scottish football seeking to make more use of the facilities, there could be many more to come.
Recently promoted to chief executive of the flagship facility at Heriot-Watt University’s Riccarton campus, Ross Campbell knows how much has gone into ensuring the project is a success. Involved since the outset, the Montrose footballer used to turn up for evening training sessions knackered as he and other staff members worked tirelessly to ensure their bid saw off competition from Dundee and Stirling and then bring those plans to life.
“Twelve months ago, we had just opened and I was suffering from sheer exhaustion. I was the Montrose captain but I was struggling in the warm-ups.” He is thrilled with his new position as assistant manager and admits that while he would love to still be playing, that role suits better.
Oriam is proving itself in its debut year after costing £33 million, with the Scottish Government contributing £25m, and the remainder coming from sportscotland, Edinburgh City Council and Heriot-Watt University.
The partners include the Scottish FA, Scottish Rugby, Basketball Scotland, Netball Scotland, Scottish Handball, sportscotland Institute of Sport and Scottish Squash and Racquetball, and they also have their main contract with Hearts, as a custodian, which is done through the auspices of the SFA, and host Hibernian U20 matches. It is also hoped that they can eventually add indoor tennis facilities to the sporting footprint as well.
The concept of the national Sports Performance Centre was developed following recommendations in the McLeish Report into Scottish football, with the idea of providing the sporting elite with the facilities, access and sports services pivotal to national success.
In the case of rugby, Campbell’s statistics prove that it has worked and he says it is only a matter of time before the SFA starts maximising the returns as well.
“We will start with Scottish rugby. We worked out a stat that their training programme increased by 20 per cent as a result of Oriam being here – compared to the previous year – due to the vagaries of the Scottish weather. For them to be able to come in and just have everything on one site, the guys fed back to us that it did really help them get to where they are today.
“My favourite moment was when I was watching Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw practising their kicking. Then when I got in from Montrose and I watched and realised Finn had kicked the winner against Australia with the last kick of the ball. That was the moment which crystallised for me why we are here. It had been pishing with rain outside and they were in practising when they couldn’t have before.
“Last year they achieved their highest ever world ranking of fifth and that has cascaded down to the Under-20s and the women – they had their highest-ever finish in the Six Nations. That was a highlight but from the SFA we are only really starting to scratch the surface.”
It was claimed that former Scotland boss Gordon Strachan was not a fan of switching the squad base from Mar Hall Hotel, in Glasgow, to the facility on the outskirts of Edinburgh, but with the new on-site hotel now open, and SFA chief executive Stewart Regan and performance director Malky Mackay onside, that is expected to change under the next national boss.
“Certainly, that is the intention,” says Campbell. “Now we have the hotel here on site too. It was always the SFA’s intention to come here, once a new campaign started and the hotel was here and we were delighted to have them here recently for a couple of days before they went up to Aberdeen. Seeing football and rugby work at the same time, very early on that seemed to be a very big challenge, but a year down the line, once we have established relationships, they actually work really well together. It was great to see the players interacting.
“The senior men had been here in March for the Canada game but for the recent match, against the Netherlands, in Aberdeen, they were here. Because there had been a change of manager it was a bit last-minute, but they worked really well with the rugby guys. Gregor and the SRU guys were here and in the hotel for the autumn Tests but they were really accommodating and that hit home for me because of how they were interacting. They were sharing the gym, sharing the pitches.
“That’s not the only thing – they recently went on a joint venture to enhance the performance analysis equipment which we’d installed in the indoor facility, football and rugby worked together. The SFA attracted money from Fifa but they went into it together – under the new strategy for football, performance analysis is a key component so they’ve installed a state of the art HD system and both sports can use it.”
As the sports work together and netball players mingle with footballers, squash players, rugby stars and recreational users in the on-site cafe, there is a feelgood vibe about the facility that has spent its first year proving that teamwork can make the dream work and as these sports and Campbell and his staff have shown, it is the way forward.
◆ To find out more about Oriam, Scotland’s Sports Performance Centre, and its world-class facilities which can be used by everyone, visit www.oriamscotland.com