Exclusive: Edinburgh rugby chief discusses stadium expansion, private investment and club’s watershed moment

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Douglas Struth can’t wait to see Edinburgh sell out against Ulster.

All 7,774 tickets have been sold for the game with Ulster as both teams seek a top-eight finish in the United Rugby Championship which would secure them a place in the season-ending play-offs. Edinburgh played to much larger crowds at BT Murrayfield, but these were usually on one-off occasions such as major European games or the celebratory 1872 Cup clash with Glasgow. The significance of Saturday’s sale is that it’s something the club have been building on since taking up residence in their new home at the start of the season. They have played ten competitive matches at DAM Health and are yet to lose. The brand of rugby played under new manager Mike Blair was open and exciting and the match day experience was enjoyable. For Douglas Struth, the club’s managing director, that sounds like vindication. He’s been so encouraged by the rapid uptake of Edinburgh supporters that there are already talks of expanding the stadium’s capacity. “It’s a real turning point for the club, a real historic moment,” Struth said. “It’s only been seven or eight months since we had our first game here against Newcastle which opened the place. To be able to say it’s complete in such a short time is a huge amount of work and I’m extremely proud of what we did as a club to make it happen. feel the four compact £5.7million floor stands, this allows at least some degree of flexibility and Struth revealed there is potential to increase the capacity to 10,000. “It’s about a modular construction,” said the MD. “Underneath there is around 2,000 tonnes of concrete, so the foundations are permanent and ready to support permanent infrastructure. But also the modular construction of the stands means that we can put another level on the Lothian stand or put corners on it, probably up to 10,000. “You will have to go through the relevant planning and building mandate process. It wouldn’t be overnight. “He has the ability to grow with us and that’s what’s really important. If we continue to sell and do well from a financial standpoint, then expansion is absolutely on the cards and, you know what, over time, permanent infrastructure is also on the cards. That’s the journey we want to take now.” It won’t happen next season, but if Edinburgh continue their current rate of progress it may not be too far in the future. “I think we have to constantly selling the place first to make the economic case work,” Struth added. “We probably need a little more time to build the support, but I don’t think it will be too long.” The old maxim of ‘build it and they will come’ can be applied to the new ground which sits next to the grand stadium of Murrayfield, Edinburgh’s former home which was not suited to the club’s needs. “I spent a lot of time watching Edinburgh rugby games as a fan in the main bowl,” Struth said. “We’ve had very large crowds and special occasions over the years, but there was never an escape from the fact that there were always 50 or 60,000 empty seats. And that affects the atmosphere, or how a fan enjoys the game or how a player feeds off of it. “It’s totally different and anyone who has come to an Edinburgh game this season when we’ve had 6,500 here would probably attest to that.” Scottish Rugby.A former season ticket holder, he followed the club through its years as a peripatetic from Myreside to Easter Road to Meadowbank to Murrayfield and then back to Myreside and Murrayfield.Struth calls it ‘a nomadic existence’ and acknowledges he may have hampered Edinburgh’s hopes of winning silverware in the professional era.”You look at the players who played for Edinburgh rugby in the professional era – the Lions, the captains of the All Blacks – an incredible list of people who have worn the shirt,” Struth said. “You look at that list and you go, ‘why haven’t we been more successful?’ Is the nomadic existence part of it? Were we just passing through? Does this show up in the culture of the club as a whole? It probably is. And that’s why this [the new stadium] has been such an important, game-changing project from both a financial and a club culture perspective. We have a place we can call home, a place where we can start building something special. Edinburgh are still fighting on two fronts this season. As well as closing in on the URC play-offs, they have a European Challenge Cup quarter-final at home to Wasps next Saturday. Success on and off the pitch would likely make them attractive for outside investment. He went the private ownership route in 2006 and it ended messy, but Struth remains open-minded. “The first thing is to get the financial sustainability of the club right, because nothing will happen until that’s in place. And that’s to fill the stadium,” he said. “But it’s also a question of investment in the team and we have increased the investment by around a third in the three seasons I have been here. We are really well placed. “So I guess that the question is, if private investment were to show up, would we be interested in it?Yes we would, because I think it’s probably the right thing to do, for the wider game in Scotland as well. This is the form that investment takes.”

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