Scottish Rugby yesterday repeated their insistence of last week that the national rugby stadium’s worm-ridden turf is a “manageable” problem.
Scotland’s Six Nations games against England on 8 February and France on 8 March are not in jeopardy, a spokesman said, but Edinburgh subsequently announced that they had been instructed to seek alternative venues for the visit of the Ospreys on 28 February.
Officially, the removal of the game from Murrayfield remains only a contingency plan but if, as seems likely, an alternative venue is used in order to preserve the pitch for the visit of France, Edinburgh confirmed that another ground within the city would be their preferred alternative.
Other than the leftfield option of returning to Meadowbank ten years after the Edinburgh Gunners last played at the athletics stadium, or leaving the city boundaries to play somewhere like Hawick, the only options for the Friday night Ospreys game would be Edinburgh’s two biggest floodlit club grounds, Boroughmuir’s Meggetland and nearby Myreside, where Watsonians are based and where Edinburgh played prior to moving to Meadowbank in 2002.
Two other events also face being moved away from the 67,000-seat home of Scottish rugby – the finals of the National Youth League on 16 February and, indicating the extent of the remedial work taking place at Murrayfield, the 28 March finals of the Brewin Dolphin Girls schools competition.
But the main upheaval lies with the headache of moving a professional PRO12 game away from Murrayfield to a venue that can satisfy all the criteria for a one-off hosting experience.
“Should we need to move the game, the priorities would be to keep it in the city and have it at a club ground,” said an Edinburgh spokesman. “The key factors would be size and the ability to cater for broadcasters, as well as floodlights and health and safety elements.
“There are a number of good-sized grounds in the city and we will not be naming names at this stage, but we are in the process of approaching clubs to discuss the matter.
“We have an average crowd of 4,000 for home games in the Pro12, or 4,500 if you include the Glasgow game, and we would like to sit as many of those people as possible, and give them as close an experience as possible to what they get at Murrayfield. Temporary seating is a possibility and it’s all about minimising disruption for our supporters.” When contacted by The Scotsman last night, Boroughmuir president Bill Noble indicated that his club would be keen to host Edinburgh, and Watsonians president Paul di Rollo said that Myreside would be an “excellent venue” for the visit of Ospreys, the PRO12 champions the season before last.
The use of Meggetland would require the consent of Edinburgh Leisure, while the keys to Myreside are held by George Watson’s College.
Scottish Rugby said the Murrayfield groundstaff were continuing to work “tirelessly” to halt the deterioration of the playing surface, blamed on poor weather and the preponderance of nematode parasites that have led to the ground being easily churned up.
A statement issued from the national governing body read: “Scottish Rugby remains committed to Murrayfield being the most widely-accessible international rugby ground in the northern hemisphere. That said, we are not immune to the challenges of climate. In the short term, however, we are doing everything we can to support the efforts of our groundstaff to ensure the pitch is in sufficiently robust health to host our two home fixtures in the 2014 RBS Six Nations Championship – the Calcutta Cup game against England on Saturday 8 February and our meeting with France on Saturday 8 March.
“We seek the understanding of players and supporters, who may find that their opportunity to play/spectate at the international pitch is restricted while we do our utmost to rehabilitate the playing surface.”