Ireland

Groundtastic – Scots Scene – Spring 2003

Between 2002-2008 I was Scottish Correspondent for the wonderfully professional Groundtastic – The Football Grounds Magazine. I can not speak highly enough of the editors and contributors to this glossy magazine that is jam-packed with interesting information and photographic gold.

I haven’t been a subscriber to the magazine since my marriage imploded in 2008 and I was forced to leave Scotland. Since then my dexterity has deteriorated to such an extent that I now find it impossible to simply thumb through a magazine.

Imagine my excitement then when I visited the Groundtastic website to discover that they now have a digital edition available 🙂 I’ll definitely be subscribing.

Anyway, over the next few months I will be sharing a number of articles that I penned during my time North of the Border, including my regular Scots Scene news round-up of potential football ground developments and improvements. The following is from Spring 2003 and it will be evident to ground enthusiasts and football fans just how much has changed from the era in which it was written…

Enjoy a short step back in time.

GT

 

Euro 2008 will be held in Austria and Switzerland – ending Scottish and Irish dreams of jointly hosting the tournament. This rather surprising decision has had repercussions for three SPL clubs who were planning to move to new stadiums, that would also be used for Euro 2008. Since that will not happen and government support will not be forthcoming, ABERDEEN, DUNDEE UNITED and DUNDEE have been forced to reconsider their options.

As mentioned in the last edition of Groundtastic, there have been objections to the moves from supporters and homeowners in the two cities and they were largely pleased  that the joint Scotland/Ireland bid ended in failure.

The Dundee clubs were planning to share a stadium and had even received SPL permission to groundshare – but crucially they never consulted the supporters whose financial support they now have to rely on if such a move is to go ahead. Not surprisingly, the clubs are now planning to take supporters’ opinions into consideration.

Dundee United spokesman Malcolm Brown said: “We will have to look at the possibility that Scotland may bid for Euro 2012 and assess the implications that might bring. However, I can confirm that we will be taking the supporters’ views into account.”

Over at Dens Park spokesman Niall Scott confirmed that consultation with Dundee supporters was top of their agenda. Scott said: “It’s not a case of going back to the drawing board though. A new stadium for Dundee remains not just a possibility, but an opportunity we should take very seriously.”

Aberdeen have so far spent £300,000 on their proposed move from Pittodrie to Bellfield Farm in the Kingswells area. They have obtained permission to move from the City Council and the plans are currently with the Scottish Executive while a public enquiry takes place.

Following the failure of the European bid though, any plans may have to be dramatically scaled down, though Aberdeen’s plans are thought to be flexible enough to do that.

Dons spokesman Andrew Shinie said: “We are obviously very disappointed that the Scotland-Ireland bid has been unsuccessful. The benefits which could have been derived for Scotland’s economy as well as Scottish football were significant. We still believe that the proposals for a new stadium and world-class sports and leisure facility at Bellfield present an outstanding opportunity for the north-east and we need to consider how we best move this forward.”

 

HIBERNIAN have joined forces with Edinburgh Education Department to create a Football Academy for Edinburgh. Under the proposals, Hibernian FC will apply for outline planning permission to refurbish and improve facilities at Duddingston Playing Fields. The Club and the City of Edinburgh Council will jointly submit a lottery bid to sportScotland to help fund the development.

Councillor Rev Ewan Aitken said: “These exciting proposals will enable us to develop grass roots football and excellence programmes for some of our most talented young sportspeople, offering them the opportunity to work with professional footballers and coaches. I am sure if these plans go ahead it is only a matter of time before we unearth the stars of the future.”

 

The dismal Scottish weather has played havoc with the Scottish fixture list yet again and UEFA are looking into the introduction of plastic pitches on a trial basis to extend the life of pitches.

LIVINGSTON and ABERDEEN has already registered their interest in the trial. UEFA are willing to pay half the installation cost of up to six clubs willing to participate. At the moment all league and cup games must be played on a grass surface but the SPL may be prepared to change the rules to accommodate these pitches.

Livingston already use a synthetic training pitch with no problems. Their chairman, Dominic Keane, admitted he was keen on the idea when he said: “We would be happy to take part in the UEFA initiative as there are a tremendous number of merits in having a synthetic pitch. For a start, your stadium becomes a seven-day operation because your pitch can be used three or four times a day.”

Aberdeen’s chief executive Keith Wyness was also keen to be involved. Wyness said: “If UEFA are looking for clubs to try it out, we are delighted to do so and have registered our interest with the SPL and the SFA”.

 

ARBROATH struck gold when they were drawn to play RANGERS at Gayfield in the third round of the Scottish Cup. The first division side did consider switching the tie to a bigger venue to maximise their windfall until they heard Sky would be covering the game live. Red Lichties boss John Brownlie said “We may have lost money by not playing at a bigger venue but the money from TV means that it’s swings and roundabouts. Everyone at the club is pleased at the way things have worked out”. However, Arbroath had to make a £3,000 investment on their ground to upgrade the lighting system to meet the requirements of Sky who said the Gayfield lights were not bright enough for live TV. Sky in turn coughed up £80,000 so it was money well spent. Unfortunately, Arbroath lost the match 3-0.

 

CLYDE are going well in the Scottish first division but when the travelled to McDiarmid Park, home of ST JOHNSTONE, on January 18, their supporters were far from happy with their treatment. Clyde’s Director of Stadium Operations, Denis Gowans received several letters of complaint from Clyde supporters and subsequently wrote to St Johnstone outlining their concerns.

The main cause for complaint was that the taped off area, designated for the Clyde support, was inadequate. Police and stewards on duty failed to increase this area to house the supporters comfortably. Supporters attempting to leave the taped area to sit with friends and get a better view met with resistance by the stewards. Clyde supporters also moaned that they had to pay £15 for a seat with restricted views and that there was no separate parent and child gate for Clyde families.

Gowans concluded his letter by suggesting that, given McDiarmid Park has a capacity of 10,000, “consideration be given to housing the Clyde support in a properly segregated section in the stand with sufficient space, where our supporters would feel that they are getting better value for money.

“If something is not done to resolve these quite clearly felt areas of concern in the future then I am sure that many of our supporters will refrain from travelling to your stadium with obvious financial implications to yourselves”.

 

FALKIRK, INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE and CLYDE are all challenging for promotion to the SPL but at the moment none of these clubs are eligible for entry to the top flight due to strict ground criteria. The SPL constitution states that clubs must have at least 10,000 seats in their stadium. The respective clubs are currently looking at ways of complying with this ruling.

Falkirk, seem to be on the brink of moving to Westfield and are looking at the possibility of playing games at Airdrie United’s New Broomfield Park until their stadium is ready to use in November 2003.

ICT’s plans are discussed below while Clyde already have three quarters of a stadium and are planning to erect a temporary structure to take their capacity to 10,000.

The only club currently in the promotion race that are eligible for the step up is ST JOHNSTONE.

However, according to reports, the SPL are ready to put another barrier in the way of ambitious first division clubs with the insistence that all members of the SPL must have undersoil heating.

The current rules of the SPL state that teams merely require “pitch-protection”, such as a pitch blanket or hot air bubble. To install undersoil heating would cost in the region of £200,000. It is unlikely that Inverness CT or Falkirk would make that sort of expenditure when they are seeking to move to purpose built stadia.

 

INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE could be a step closer to their proposed move to the Bught Park area of the city with Asda building a new superstore on their current home at East Longman. The £25 million deal was discussed in a secret meeting with Inverness planning officials and a purpose-built stadium looks to be the only way the club will be able to achieve SPL status in the short term. The Caley Jags cannot afford to re-develop Caledonian Stadium to the necessary 10,000-seat capacity – though the possibility of erecting temporary stands, should the Asda deal collapse, has also been investigated.

Inverness planning chief Clive Goodman said: “We have had a briefing from Asda and ICT about the possible takeover of the East Longman site. The prospect of Caley Thistle playing at the Bught is not beyond the realms of possibility. However, there are a lot of hurdles to get over.”. The proposed development at Bught Park includes a sports arena, complete with hotel and conference facilities.

The local civic trust is opposing both the Longman and Bught development ideas.

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Groundtastic – Scots Scene – Winter 2002

Between 2002-2008 I was Scottish Correspondent for the wonderfully professional Groundtastic – The Football Grounds Magazine. I can not speak highly enough of the editors and contributors to this glossy magazine that is jam-packed with interesting information and photographic gold.

I haven’t been a subscriber to the magazine since my marriage imploded in 2008 and I was forced to leave Scotland. Since then my dexterity has deteriorated to such an extent that I now find it impossible to simply thumb through a magazine.

Imagine my excitement then when I visited the Groundtastic website to discover that they now have a digital edition available 🙂 I’ll definitely be subscribing.

Anyway, over the next few months I will be sharing a number of articles that I penned during my time North of the Border, including my regular Scots Scene news round-up of potential football ground developments and improvements. The following is from Winter 2002 and it will be evident to ground enthusiasts and football fans just how much has changed from the era in which it was written…

Enjoy a short step back in time.

GT

THE SCOTTISH Executive has decided to launch a public enquiry into Aberdeen’s proposed 30,000 seat stadium on farm land at Kingswells. Local residents have complained about the proposals, which – they claim – breach green belt policy and other planning rules. The inquiry is expected to delay the final decision by at least nine months and puts a question mark over Aberdeen’s inclusion in Scotland’s joint application with Ireland to host the 2008 European Championships, of which Kingswells is a part.

Meanwhile, Aberdeen has launched a new personal food service for its vegetarian supporters at Pittodrie. The meat free options available in the Richard Donald and Merkland Stands are now provided in the South and Main Stands. What’s more, supporters can phone or e-mail their order for a vegetarian snack, pay for it over the phone and collect it at half-time.

 

SPL clubs are not permitted to share grounds but Dundee and Dundee United have applied to the league bosses for special dispensation. The Tayside pair are looking to share a stadium as part of Scotland’s and Ireland’s joint Euro 2008 bid.

 

WORK has begun on a Football Academy for Heart of Midlothian at Heriot-Watt University. This exciting project jointly funded by Hearts and the university – along with a £1 million award from the Lottery Fund – will be completed in just under 12 months time and include a floodlit synthetic pitch, an indoor pitch, new changing rooms and offices for the Hearts coaching staff. In addition, there will be a major refurbishment of the main competition pitch, which will also be floodlit.

 

SPL NEWCOMERS Partick Thistle are doing well in their first season back in the top division and this could lead to redevelopment of Firhill, as discussed at the AGM. Chairman Brown McMaster said that if The Jags live to fight another season in the top flight, the intention is to extend the North Stand to its conclusion. This would result in 600 extra seats, which would cover any loss suffered if the club is forced to close their wooden Main Stand – surely only a matter of time. McMaster added that the Board of Directors would also consider development of the south end of the ground – depending on Thistle’s fortunes.

 

WORK IS complete on Arbroath’s new main stand, which was open for the home match against Falkirk at the beginning of October. The club has also installed a new PA system, with loudspeakers in all the enclosures and improved toilet facilities. To help pay for the improvements, supporters are being invited to make a lifetime reservation of a seat in the home section of the redeveloped stand. For just £250 they will be guaranteed use of ‘their’ seat for every match for the rest of their life.  The Gayfield Sign, which was displayed above the tunnel for many years, has also been auctioned on the club’s website. The 6ft x 2ft sign was eventually sold for £250.

 

AYR UNITED’s future plans were dealt a blow when planning permission was denied for a new stadium at Heathfield. This means The Honest Men will have to settle for an upgrade of their current home at Somerset Park – very much a second choice option.

 

PLANNING PERMISSION has been granted to build a supermarket, petrol station and access roads on Brockville – home of Falkirk. The Bairns now need to ratify their plans with the council before they can push ahead with the planned 7,000 all-seater Community Stadium at Westfield, which will fall short of the 10,000 seat criteria for admission to the SPL. Falkirk hope to prove that this rule is flawed due to a decrease in attendance’s throughout Scotland but are prepared to build a 3,000 seat temporary stand should SPL bosses fail to see reason.

 

INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE are locked in talks with a supermarket chain regarding the possibility of selling Caledonian Stadium. The Highland club is currently pushing for promotion to the SPL, where ground criteria stipulates the provision of at least 10,000 seats. Caledonian Stadium can currently only boast a capacity of 6,500 (2,200 seats) and as a result ICT would be barred from entering the top flight. Subsequently, the Caley Jags can either sell it’s ground and relocate to a purpose built, all-seater stadium – possibly in the Bught Park area – or develop the area around the ground and redevelop their current stadium. At the moment, the former seems the more likely option.

 

ST MIRREN are ANOTHER club poised to sell its ground to an English supermarket chain and wipe out the majority of their crippling debts. This news has come as a shock to fans of the Paisley club as the facts have only just been revealed, with a deal seemingly imminent. If this move comes off – the only stumbling block appears to be getting planning permission from Renfrewshire Council for development on Love Street – then St Mirren will probably find themselves playing at a still to be confirmed venue in the heart of Ferguslie Park.

Fleet and Free by Joshua Billingham

On September the 23rd, I was darting around north Birmingham searching for the fibreglass owls that make up The Big Hoot trail. One I found was number 70: Fleet and Free by Joshua Billingham. THIS WAS THE FINAL OWL OF MY BIG HOOT TRAIL. MISSION COMPLETE.

Visit my Virgin Money Giving page and please give generously in aid of Birmingham Children’s Hospital

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Joshua Billingham (a.k.a ‘Gent 48′) is an illustrator, graffiti writer and street artist from Birmingham. He studied visual communication at BIAD Birmingham University, receiving a first class degree.

As well as working as a freelance illustrator, he exhibits artwork and paints murals for all types of businesses and private homes.  His work consists mainly of imaginative characters and strange worlds.

He has worked and exhibited in many countries across the world, including Australia, Germany, Denmark, Scotland, Ireland, Finland and London. This summer, he is due to paint at a number of festivals across Europe and hopefully Tahiti – showcasing his spray painting skills.  He is the founder of the Birmingham ‘Graffiti Crew 48’ and also represents ID Crew London and SDM Crew Melbourne.

Visit my Virgin Money Giving page and please give generously in aid of Birmingham Children’s Hospital