Glasgow Warriors: ‘Vague’ Scotstoun expansion plans cause concern for athletics club

The athletics club who share Scotstoun Stadium with Glasgow Warriors have disputed claims that talks about future expansion of the rugby capacity at the facility have been “positive”.

Glasgow Warriors train in front of a temporary stand at Scotstoun. Picture: Gary Hutchison/SNS/SRU

On Monday, Warriors managing director Nathan Bombrys revealed that plans were under way but at an early stage to increase the regular 7,350 capacity to between 10,000-12,000.

The SRU-run pro team have been tenants of Glasgow Life, the leisure arm of the city council, since the move from Firhill in 2012 and achieved incredible success, while sharing the venue with 
Victoria Park City of Glasgow Athletics Club.

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Bombrys was adamant earlier this week that an expanded Scotstoun was the firm focus looking to the club’s future and said: “We’ve had really positive conversations with the athletics. Part of what we’re trying to do is give them something that works for them too. They’ve been involved. So far their feedback to me has been really positive.”

A quick glance at the athletics club’s Facebook page and some choice comments with regards to that suggested otherwise and the team manager Gordon Innes told The Scotsman: “We have had one meeting where a very vague plan was put to us, with no plans or details. We’re now waiting, we feel there is no real discussion and that we’re not being included.”

On the prospect of increased capacity for the rugby, Innes said: “We are very concerned.”

Innes went on to acknowledge a number of grievances raised by some of the athletics club’s 700-strong membership about the Warriors’ current presence at Scotstoun, including restricted use of and impact to the running track.

In past seasons the Warriors have gained permission to erect temporary stands behind both goalposts at the east and west of the ground to raise their capacity to 10,000 at the end of the season for play-off games and inter-city derbies, encroaching further on to the bends of the running track. Innes expressed concern that, due to the World Cup, a late start to next season means the Guinness Pro14 will run into June, which is the prime month for athletics.

“At Scotstoun we are down to about eight athletics meetings a year now, Grangemouth has around 45,” added Innes. “It’s failing as an athletics facility.”

Scotstoun has been Victoria Park AC’s home since 1930 and, under control of Glasgow Life, was viewed as a centrepiece of the much-talked about legacy of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Glasgow Warriors’ move to Scotstoun has been one of the great Scottish sporting success stories of recent years as the club have attracted consistent sell-out crowds and reached three Pro12/14 finals in the past six seasons, winning the title in 2015. A couple of weeks ago more than 47,000 attended the narrow final loss to Leinster at Celtic Park in what was a truly landmark day for Scottish rugby.

Capitalising on that and growing the brand further is something nobody would dispute but Scotstoun expansion, while emphatically the primary focus as made clear by Bombrys this week, carries planning and logistical challenges, including car parking.

Even on a site it owns, unlike Scotstoun, the SRU has had to delay its plans for a new Edinburgh stadium on the BT Murrayfield back pitches as it goes through the bureaucratic process.

Ultimately, it is Glasgow Life who will have the final say and wrestle with the potential issue of a profitable increase of up to more than 4,000 more bums on seats, beers and hot dogs consumed while watching an elite band of professionals, against the benefits to the community of people actually participating in sport.

A spokeswoman for Glasgow Life said: “Glasgow Life enjoys a strong working relationship with both Glasgow Warriors and the local athletics community in Scotstoun.

“As with any of our venues, we are always open to discussion around the possibility of increasing participation and encouraging more Glaswegians to become physically active – and we recognise the success of Glasgow Warriors and other local sports teams is an integral part of this goal.

“We will continue to keep an open dialogue with the local community around future plans for Scotstoun Stadium and will ensure we consult with them on any and all proposals received with regards to the facility.”