In Support of Raeburn Place

David Barnes, in his book “The Accies”, tells a wonderful story on the final page. It’s about Richard Escot, chief rugby writer of L’Equipe, who, every two years when France travel to play Scotland at Murrayfield…

…makes a pilgrimage down to Raeburn Place and stands at the wall next to Inverleith Pond to look across the park. I once asked him why he does this, and he said that he tries to imagine what it must have been like at that first international between Scotland and England in 1871, and imagine too all the great players who have graced this ground since 1858; and then he said: “This is where the soul of Scottish rugby is kept.”

And yet, that very soul is in danger.

Plans will shortly be submitted to redevelop the ground and include a 2,500 seater stand, a rugby museum, function suites and a retail development that will provide the club with the sustainable income which any club that owns its own ground sorely needs.

Raeburn Place, as a result of its place in the history of Scottish rugby, transcends club rivalry. We may not all be fans of the Accies, far from it…, but there’s a little bit of Raeburn Place in all who value our game. The story of Richard Escot shows that this rugby ground transcends national borders as well.

But for all the talk of history and prestige, this really is a story firmly grounded in the present with big plans for the future.

What would Richard Escot see as he walked along beside the pond now?

He’d see activity, that’s for sure. He’d see one of the biggest clubs in Scotland, one that regularly fields four senior teams, a thriving mini section and one of the biggest and most inclusive community rugby programmes in the country. And yet, such a thriving hub of community sport is run, somehow, from a temporary portakabin costing £100,000 a year, an unsustainable outlay currently being met by several members. The former clubhouse, once a hub of activity in Stockbridge, lies in an ugly mound of rubble, now grown over with grass, the result of a failed partnership with Festival Inns who had agreed to finance the redevelopment in conjunction with the Raeburn House Hotel only to go bust shortly after demolishing the clubhouse, killing the development which would have secured Raeburn Place’s future.

Scottish rugby needs all the help it can get to just hang on at the top table of international rugby. Successful players at the top table right now relies on the thriving youth programmes of fifteen years ago. We need a club game that’s as close to the professional game in quality and facilities as it possibly can be. For all that to happen, we need first-class facilities that draw people in to the game and we need our clubs on a secure financial footing. Money worries are not confined to the professional game. The more first-class facilities there are in Prem 1, the better for all. Club rivalry doesn’t even enter the equation. To that end, all clubs should be supporting the Accies plans to redevelop Raeburn Place in the face of local “NIMBY” opposition.

It’s time for all in the rugby community, from Langholm to Lerwick and everywhere in between, to stand up and show their support for the history and future of one of our own landmarks, for when it comes to the wider Scottish game, we really are all in this together.

View the development proposals.

Sign the Online Petition

(All images courtesy of Michael Laird Architects)

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Having captained both Edinburgh and Scotland at age-grade level, Fraser spent 10 months in Paris with Racing Metro 92. He is now at Exeter University.

15 comments on “In Support of Raeburn Place

  1. Ross on

    For such a historic ground not just for Scottish rugby but for rugby in general, the current facilities are atrocious. I have nothing to do with Edinburgh Accies but Raeburn Place is more than worthy of an upgrade.

  2. Anne on

    A refreshing view of what the development is all about Rugby!!! I favour this project on the basis I’m a parent of son who loves and plays rugby. The restraints local clubs face are enormous. this may set a precedence and be the model clubs follow. Who knows … Lets give it a chance to see what happens!
    I neither live nor work in Stockbridge but I, like many people in the city spend money week in week out in the local shops and restaurants in Stockbridge. So surely we can have a say?
    I would like to see a sports shop and a shoe shop of course :)
    Doesn’t matter where u live in the city there is a massive issue with traffic and parking . I’m sorry to post my thoughts up here but due to the nastiness that appears to be online if you are in favour I didn’t know where else I could put my opinion up without fear of recrimination and I’ve heard that the police may become involved due to the slanderous comments being made about individuals.

  3. BRUCE THOMPSON on

    As chairman if Save Stockbridge I must respond to the comments left by Anne. She is wrong to say the development is all about rugby–it is not. With 19,000 square feet of retail space and a further 10,000 of bars, restaurants and clubhouse this can only be claaes as a commercial project. Save Stockbridge are not against rugby, nor are they against a reasonably sized development built so as to further the game in Scotland. As she says– she neither lives nor works in Stockbridge. She therefore cannot speak for the local people or the traders who are the ones who will suffer most.

    It is all very well for people living outside Stockbridge to support this commercial venture, but at least have the courtesy
    to consider those who live beside this massive structure and whose lives will be affected permanently.

    Traffic is a problem all over Edinburgh she says and it is, particularly in Stockbridge, so why exacerbate a situation by building a totally unnecessary structure for a ridiculous number of people–current home games attract 2/3oo spectators so how on earth can this monster be justified?

    In four awareness days in either Stockbridge market or on Raeburn Place 2.089 “locals”have signed our petition which can only be proof of the strong opposition to the proposed plans.

  4. Rudderchumb on

    Technicalities aside, is it fair to say that Edinburgh Accies are one of the most socially unpopular clubs that Prem 1has ever seen? I’m not here to stir up an anti-Accies campaign, but I must say that most times I come across their players and staff on a night out, they have carried themselves with atrociously drunken arrogance and needlessly aggressive behaviour. This seems to be a rather popular perception in the Stockbridge/New Town area, and I can’t help but think this aparent reputation may have contributed to the difficult situation in which they have found themselves. Apologies if I have offended the many ‘good guys’ at Accies of which I am sure there are many, but it seems they need to review and repair their social reputations. It’s such a shame to see such an historic venue and club looking so sorry for itself.

  5. Fraser on

    Bruce. “this can only be classed as a commercial project” – an outlandish and untrue statement. Clearly not factually correct.

    The development IS all about rugby (and cricket, of course) – the retail element exists so that sport can remain at Raeburn Place and so that the clubs that are based there can continue on a stable financial footing. “Save Stockbridge” seem to have given no thought whatsoever to the possibility of Accies folding and Raeburn Place being sold…

    Anne never claimed to speak for the local people or the traders. She was speaking for herself as someone who contributes to the Stockbridge economy. The idea that only the most local of local people are allowed a view is ludicrous.

    Current 1st XV home games attract double the amount you have quoted, Bruce. Do you not accept that more people would come and watch if facilities were improved? And if more people come and watch, more money goes into the local economy. This development will bring people in to Stockbridge – you shouldn’t be trying to keep them away.

    Yes you have collected some signatures but so have the Accies, many from young people from all over north Edinburgh who currently benefit from the fantastic work that happens at Raeburn Place, work that will be secured and will grow with this development. We should be getting behind our local sports clubs and not hampering their ambitions to grow with small-minded non-objections.

    Rudderchumb – I’m sorry that you personally have had a bad experience. Even if you do dislike the Accies, and I hope I made this point in the article, that is not a reason to not get behind the redevelopment. 1 in 10 of all Scottish internationals have come through Raeburn Place and the ground itself is a historic site. Scottish rugby could very much do with new facilities so maybe we should put petty differences based on nights out aside for the good of rugby in north Edinburgh and the wider Scottish game?

  6. Rudderchumb on

    Fraser, it’s not just myself that speaks so negatively about Accies social behaviour. I assure you with absolute sincerity that they are locally frowned upon for the most part, and the local (and rugby) community see this as an Accies project, not one that’s for improving facilities for an historic, all round Scottish rugby venue. Poor impressions will always stick, even if the subject is thoroughly intoxicated and people will quite rightly bring this into account when making such impactfull permissions and large investments. I wouldn’t call it petty differences mate, more like self righteous judgement of disgraceful behaviour.

    Perhaps we should alter the purposeful message of the development. Further reinforce the fact that this is for the north of Edinburgh and Scotland’s benefit i.e. modern vibrant SRU development branding on the outside, and Accies clubhouse on the inside. Completely eradicate any suspicions of future ‘rugger-bugger’ disappointments. Can Accies do more to demonstrate a real respect for the local community through some kind of community work or contributions that will endear themselves? As in, a more universally friendly rugby club that everyone will want to be a part of, and not the stuffy rugby club that demands historical respect then drunkenly pisses against the wall at the Stockbridge Tap. The Accies shirt and tie is no longer a uniform of respect, more a hazard sign. Change public perceptions and they will change their fortunes.

  7. Louise on

    Rudderchumb, I’m also sorry to hear you’ve had an unfortunate experience. Speaking as a mother who gets dragged along to the club because my sons act as ball boys, I can only say I’ve found the club and its members to be welcoming and respectful – certainly no hint of “rugger-buggers” or a “stuffy rugby club”.

    You ask if Accies could do “some kind of community work” – perhaps you are not aware of Accies contribution to the well-respected and far-reaching BATs (Broughton, Trinity, Accies) youth programme? I understand this is the most extensive programme of its kind in Scotland and that one of the reasons for the proposed redevelopment is to ensure this programme can continue and grow. My eldest son plays for BATs at U14 level – it’s an inclusive team made up of boys from all over north Edinburgh (including many from Stockbridge) and attending various schools. The club also makes its current facilities, such as they are, available to local schools for sporting events, eg sports days. Improved facilities at the club would provide an enhanced experience for these events.

  8. Rudderchumb on

    Hello Louise, indeed I know BATs well. A great system and long may it flourish. By community work I mean beyond and above rugby such as elderly assistance, inverleith park maintenance, local shop maintenance, etc. Gibe back to Stockbridge and it will make a difference for the better.

    Apologies if this sounds presumptious, but I don’t think we frequent the same drinking venues. Im sure the match day experience is generally well mannered. Bar and nightclub behaviour is something else. Examples include public nudity, street pissing, fanny grabbing (please excuse the vulgar description), needless physicality, ass pinching, etc. It’s a minority of club members that do this, but they’re wearing an Accies tie and people talk about it. It tarnishes the Accies name for everyone.

  9. Ray on

    I am in now way affiliated to Accies nor am I from the local community therefore I believe my point of view here is entirely neutral.

    Accies need a new clubhouse/facility that is for sure. However, Accies do not NEED a 2500 seater stadium with 19000 sq ft of retail space. As far as I can see, the local objections are purely around the retail space and also the physical size of the development. The issue here, is that this development has been put forward as a take it or leave it, all or nothing plan. But with proper consultation, I see no reason why Accies can not have the new facilities they require but on a scale which allays local concerns and fits more realistically with Accies ambitions. For example, why would a 1000 seat stadium not be acceptable? I appreciate Accies desire to insure themselves against the fluctuating bar/function incomes that prop up most rugby clubs but it is a hypocrisy for them to suggest that a new stadium is going to result in them attracting 1000+ to games, whilst at the same time saying they need the retail space for the development to be sustainable. Were they to attract average crowds on that scale they wold have a club which is more than sustainable without the retail space.

  10. Andrew Alexander on

    As a supporter of Scottish I am fully behind the whole thing. After having a good look through the Plans and this is a development serving more than one purpose.

    1. A new home for the Accies, BATs and Cricket club.
    2. Income to support the Clubs from the retail etc.

    The second point is key, and something very few clubs (if any) have caught onto in Scotland – income is key, and I mean continuous income and not just one lump sum from the sale of land etc. Melrose are currently successful in this by near-enough perfecting the 7s. Having facilities is great, but how do you look after it if you don’t have the cash?
    With Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow warriors both having significant budget increases this season, and the SRU committing themselves to paying of £500K per year of the current debt (i.e. 26 years), I worry that the sustainable grassroots funding will, if not already, disappear. Without something filling the gap of rugby development in Scotland then we’re stuffed. Its projects like this of long term sustainable income (like the 7s at Melrose) that provide clubs with the funds to do this.

    Ray – Any club would be lying if they said that they didn’t want to be expansive encouraging larger crowds and improving ‘customer experience’. The retail space looks as though it has been estimated by the income necessary – then why not go deeper or wall to wall? You talk about the issue of fluctuating incomes that support clubs – this is why the retail is their is it not? sustainable income.

    Bruce – I agree it is a commercial (as in an income producing) development, but by a rugby club and for the benefit of local sport. I have looked at the SS site and FB group and do worry about some facts you have produced when evidence would suggest otherwise. The club have stated that the income from the development goes back into the rugby. – and why would they lie? The Accies have made their mistake in the past with commercial developers, If they really want to gain all the benefits from this then control is key.

    (My final point is directed to Rudderchumb – a warning as a fellow blogger/commentator on public forums like these, I would be careful about making accusations along the lines that you have. Considering the severity of your accusations some may consider them slanderous and if to be followed up, without evidence you may be accused yourself of reckless behaviour.)

  11. Ray on

    Andrew, of course the retail space is there to provide income but you’re missing my point. Access are also building a grandstand capable of seating 10 times their average match attendance and when you include standing room, their ground capacity will be 5000. There is obviously a huge question mark over whether the scale can be justified. When questioned about it, the Accies have stated that this new stadium will result in much larger crowds and with ambitions to attract average crowds of 1000+(still some way below capacity). If the Accies are prepared to stand by these ambitions as being realistic and achievable, then the fact is that this increase in attendances would be more than enough to make the development sustainable. So, taking Accies own targets, a smaller development which consists of a stand of let’s say 1000 seats and little or no retail space would accommodate the anticipated crowd growth and be self sustaining.

    Or are the crowd estimations being fabricated to justify a larger stand which thus means more room for retail space?

    All I’m doing is taking an objective view on Accies plans and the stated objections and this point about them needing a ground which holds as many as that is an absolute nonsense. If Raeburn Place was in a retail district then sure, perhaps they’d have a case for it based on the need for retail space in an area, but Stockbridge doesn’t need nor want the additional retail space as far as I can see.

  12. Rudderchumb on

    Thanks for the warning Andrew. Perhaps drunken Accies club members should consider the severity of their actions. I have several witnesses and evidence of this behaviour and now I’ve made my point I will comment no further. Best of luck on this development for the good of Scottish rugby.

  13. Brian on

    Well well……..
    I like Anne, do not live or work in stockbridge, however i have sons in rugby and a wife who spends alot of money in the area!! on a very frequent basis I might add.

    Without the good folk of Edinburgh & visitors, spending money /supporting stockbridge there would be nothing to discuss. What happens in Stockbridge affects us all. Everyone’s point of view counts!

    I would advise that my wife and our friends signed the petition (they don’t live in stockbridge) and now having looked into the situation i have found that they were “mislead” and given incorrect information about the proposals of the edinburgh accies ground proposals.

    Andrew you didnt make a point at all. This is a forum about sport development not to make petty comments about the clubs players.If i had witnessed the kind of behaviour you claim the “accies boys were making/doing” i would have called the police?
    You are absoloutely right it is totally unacceptable behaviour and i know the club (any club for that matter) would back you all the way. The club do not expect or tolerate behaviour like that from their players or anyone associated with the club.
    To come on a forum like this and make these accusations is a nonsense, if they were that serious you need to man up! you and your witnesses need to make the minority accountable for their actions.

    Sport in the community is paramount for the future of our youngsters. The proposals support sport in the community not just for club.

    good luck and i hope this goes ahead in the best way for all

    i can see there are issues and a hopefully a compromise can be met by all parties, perhaps the clubs would consider developing in stages ?

  14. Jenks on

    Brian- It seems you meant Rudderchumb, not Andrew in reply to accusations of disgraceful behaviour. Anyway, I think his/her comments are completely correct and he did in fact make a very good point, that is this development has run in to increased difficulty as a result of poor behaviour by club members. I don’t agree with the disgusting detail he/she has gone into though and should be kept off forums like this.

    With regards to ‘manning up’ and confronting this kind of behaviour, I’d say people find it understandably difficult to confront a group of big lads who’ve had a few and are clearly up for causing some mischief late at night. Calling the Police seems pretty useless these days too.

    I know of businesses who have retracted sponsorship at Edinburgh Academicals Rugby Club because of this behaviour. I know many people who live in Stockbridge who don’t care less about Scottish rugby and spitefully chuckle at the dire situation that Accies have found their accommodation to be in, because of this behaviour. These are indeed poor attitudes and hard to take for the EARC supporter but they are actually consequential and something Accies needs to fix for the good of this development.

  15. TheLastKing on

    Oye Brian. Just the no-diddy thinkin that helps drunken rugby lads get away wi this kind ae carry on. Stand up tae a bunch ae boozed up rugby big boys fae pinchin a birds arse? Aye right. Call the pigs? Useless. Tell the club? Aye get an apology maybe but willnae make no bit diffo. Accies claim tae be gid lads, usually carryin themsels well enough about town. Get a drink downem – “what a bunch ae wankers”

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