- Only 4 free weekends remaining before the end of the season
- Using 6 Nations weekend would strip sides of 30 Scottish internationals
- European weekends may not be available
- Alternative stadia present significant issues around timing, insurance and staffing
The news that the second leg of the 1872 Cup has had to be moved to Murrayfield will cause a fair bit of inconvenience for the club’s fans and will work against a Warriors side already under pressure from a slow start to the season.
The 2015/16 season was always going to be congested due to the Rugby World Cup. The Pro 12 is already a week behind and the final week in January (which is normally a rest weekend prior to the Six Nations kicking off) is being used to catch up. This leave just 5 weekends potentially free between now and the last regular season fixture (with the league unlikely to allow a game to be played after this final round). To add to their difficulties the Warriors have already seen 2 league fixtures postponed with the Leinster home game now being played during the international window and the Zebre game still to be rescheduled – therefore they only have 4 free dates.
The remaining available weekends are:
w/end 5/6/7 Feb – Six Nations weekend, Scotland v England
w/end 11/12/13 Mar – Six Nations weekend, Scotland v France
w/end 8/9/10 April – European tournament quarter finals
w/end 22/23/24 April – European tournament quarter finals
Rescheduling the 1872 Cup 2nd leg for a Six Nations weekend would leave the farcical situation of one of Scotland’s 2 big club games being played without around 30 Scottish internationals. Glasgow are already having to cope with being shorthanded more than half their league games, including 6 of their 8 fixtures against the other perennial playoff contenders (Leinster, Munster, Ospreys and Ulster). The Warriors will in all likelihood have been handicapped to a larger degree by international call-ups than their great rivals and the league will have lost out on some of the biggest clashes of the year. Having Scottish rugby’s showcase facing the same treatment would be bad news for both clubs and their followers and yet another game without their biggest names would be more of a disadvantage for the Warriors than playing a ‘home’ game at Murrayfield.
Postponing the game and holding off naming a replacement date in the hope that one of the European weekends would become free would be fraught with risk. It may take an unlikely series of results for Glasgow to make the latter stages of the European Cup but at this stage it is still not impossible. It looks more probable than not that Edinburgh will progress from their group in the Challenge Cup, taking out the first of the free weekends in April. That being the case it’s then down to the result of a one-off game whether the remaining April date remains free – and with only 2 weeks to confirm final arrangements. If Edinburgh were to match their achievements from last season then the remaining 1872 Cup fixture would be relegated to a midweek afterthought that would suit neither the players nor the fans.
Other than arranging an alternative date the only other option is to find another venue. Practically speaking it’s difficult to see how arrangements could be made (particularly given the time of year) to use somewhere on the scale of Hampden or Ibrox which is owned by a third party. For example how to arrange sufficient security and other staffing to open the stadium; obtain insurance; and ensure the pitch was suitably prepared?
Rugby Park and Broadwood are both synthetic surfaces and of sufficient size for the 6.5k + tickets sold. However both are in use on the 2nd of January so using them would require moving the game to Sunday the 3rd (at the earliest). And again there is the issue of obtaining agreement from the owner of the grounds (where is the benefit to them of hosting the game at such short notice?) allied to the staffing and insurance problems.
Would the change of date and travelling to Cumbernauld or Kilmarnock be any better than using the existing date and the superior transport links to Edinburgh? Unfortunately the west of Scotland does not have many stadia of the appropriate size and with suitable facilities to accommodate the Warriors – one of the reasons why Scotstoun will be the club’s home for many seasons to come despite its restrictions.
The unavailability of Scotstoun is an unfortunate situation but one which required a decision to be made and Murrayfield appears to be the least worst option. Given 21 of the matchday 23 have played at the national stadium on multiple occasions there should be no excuse for the players not to put in the kind of performance they are capable of.