Monday, December 06, 2021

Scotstoun - A Field of Dreams

Participating v Spectating.

Here is why I care about Scotstoun and the ongoing debate on usage between athletics and rugby.

For generations of young Glasgow sportsmen and sportswomen Scotstoun Showgrounds provided a field of dreams as they aspired in their sporting careers through school and club.

I was very fortunate, as I was one of them from school at Glasgow Academy, then through the medium of Victoria Park AAC now Victoria Park City of Glasgow who have been there for over 90 years.  I cannot claim to speak for them but I can certainly speak of them

The current Club came about following an amalgamation between Victoria Park and City of Glasgow Athletics Club.Hugh Barrow

This Club and its predecessors provided our City and Scotland with generations of international competitors who competed with distinction, winning honours at Olympic, European and Commonwealth level, very much the level that the Warriors currently aspire to.

It saddens me, that in recent times, the arrival of Glasgow Warriors has caused conflict.  When the move was announced, I thought that it would present a wonderful opportunity for both sports to work together, in fact I said as much in articles written at the request of the Warriors Press Officer of the time Mark Palmer (now Rugby Correspondent Sunday Times) and posted on the official Warriors website in August 2012.

Athletics and rugby have coexisted in Scotland since Victorian times with many examples of overlap personified by the likes of Robert Stronach, Eric Liddell and Frank Dick.  In fact many of the founder clubs of the Scottish Amateur Athletics Association in 1883 were rugby clubs like West of Scotland, Glasgow Accies, Watsonians and Edinburgh Accies.

At the end of the days march, Scotstoun is a publicly funded sports facility for the benefit of all, it is not a dedicated rugby stadium built and funded by Scottish Rugby, albeit they pay a rental as tenants.

The Warriors have brought great honour to Glasgow in recent times but this should not be at the expense of other users.

Athletics and rugby can thrive together with goodwill, good management and mutual respect, the last being one of the SRU's core values and after all, much of the modern fitness programmes used in rugby are based on athletics principles of yesteryear.

One of the Warriors favourite sons and Scottish Cap, now rugby pundit John Barclay, may owe some of his sporting ability to his father Graham who was a British Youth High Jump Champion and a member of Victoria Park.

I am not blind to the pressures of the modern professional rugby era, having been involved since 1997 with Glasgow Hawks, a club that has provided the Warriors with a steady flow of players, probably more players than any other club, the latest being Ross Thompson.

Just as Warriors want to follow their ambitions into Europe on the pitch so do others on track and field and now with Rugby Sevens included in the Olympic programme the synergy is complete.

The Warriors have a huge opportunity to build bridges with athletics as they have the professional setup which other users do not enjoy.

Let's hope this opportunity is grasped for the benefit of sport in our City and that this leads to more honours on pitch, track and field.  Surely that's what we want to see, Athletics and Rugby flourishing side by side.

It would be a tragedy if through Rugby's pursuit of finding the next Finn Russell, Athletics are denied finding the next Laura Muir.

Here lies the dilemma; is the purpose of Glasgow Life to provide facilities for a professional sports franchise with emphasis on spectating or is it providing facilities for community sport with the emphasis on participating.

I hope Glasgow Life will stay true to the Legacy of Glasgow 2014 where the increase in participation was at the beating heart of the endeavour and should still be post COVID.


By Hugh Barrow - Past President of Victoria Park A.A.C