The headline above appeared in Glasgow’s ‘Evening Times’ earlier this week. For several years now the Glasgow Warriors, who have been playing their rugby there for a decade or so have managed to persuade Glasgow who look after the Stadium to make concession after concession to upgrade the venue as a rugby stadium. That the Warriors have brought honour to the city by many of their performances is not in doubt, but it has not been without an effect on the local community, the user clubs or to the sport of athletics.
When the new blue track was first installed, the representatives of the clubs that used the arena for whatever sport were invited along to be taken around the arena and have its varied improved facilities pointed out to them. This was followed by monthly user group meetings where they all met to be informed of any proposed additions or alterations to the track, practice pitches or have any other relevant information passed on. These were properly convened meetings, minutes taken and comments or proposals welcomed. I don’t know if this group still exists, it was a useful way of keeping everyone in the loop. Rugby was not one of the groups in the beginning.
Meanwhile the rugby club was looking for a home in Glasgow and they lighted on Scotstoun. Scotstoun had been used for athletics since the late 1890’s when it was used for cross country running (usually two loops with 100 yards sprints held inside the arena to entertain the public while the country runners were out of sight). It had been the home of Victoria Park AAC since its foundation in 1930, it had held local and national schools championships and internationals, it had held real international meetings and the ‘blue track’ had itself witnessed Scottish Championships, British Milers Club Grand Prix meetings and invitation international meets with some of the very best in the world competing at televised events.
Then came the Warriors: not one of the usual user groups, they wanted a home for the club. No harm in that but they were typical of any modern sports club of ambition. Where previously, relatively recently in fact, sports clubs had a good relationship with each other and did their best to accommodate each other, those days had ceased.
* There were small things at first: eg there was a small group that trained there in 2010/2011 on a Saturday morning which used some of the equipment for warm up and mini circuit work and they used three boxes from the equipment cupboard for plyometrics. Then one Saturday they were not in the store room: they were behind a tale with equipment marked for the use of the Warriors and unavailable. These things are irritants but can be worked round.
- Then the requests started to get bigger. It was inevitable – the requirements of the developing Warriors club grew as they expanded. Unfortunately they grew at the expense of other users of the venue.
- a. One of big blows to athletics came when the infield was altered from grass to plastic so that the rugby club would not have to call of a few games a season but it meant that there could be no more full or partial international matches there because there could be no throwing events within the arena in front of the stand. b. Then there were also the difficulties posed by the erection of temporary stands for major competitions at either end of the ground which encroached on the running track, laid at great expense to the city rate payers but very welcome to the various groups that use the stadium. These temporary stands meant that proper training could not be carried out right at the most important part of the season- the switch from winter work to the competition season proper in June and July.
- c.The current request is that these stands stay in place for five years. The net effect could be the end of athletics at Scotsman unless something is done about it. There are several questions that could maybe be asked:
- first, what will the access to the track be for club athletes from several clubs, for tri-athletes, for casual users, etc be for that five year period?
- second, did Scottish athletics know of the proposal which would deprive the athletics community in Scotland of what had been one of its flagship arenas? If they did, then did they make any representations at all to Glasgow pointing out the importance of the arena to the sport on a national level?
BUT … most important. This will not be the last request from the Warriors. The demands of any sport, the developments never cease and there will be further requests from Glasgow Warriors. What will the response from Scottish athletics, from Victoria Park AAC or from any other yser group be? Will they start up a continuing dialogue with the local authority for the duration of the five year period, will there be a united front from the other user organisations or will there be nothing done? Athletics as a whole needs to be involved.