BY IAIN COLLIN – CAPITAL CITY PRESS
Hibernian fans have expressed concerns over the Easter Road pitch should Edinburgh Rugby play at the stadium next season.
Sources at the club have confirmed that talks over some form of a ground-share with the rugby side have been on-going for some time but that no agreement has yet been struck.
SRU chief executive Mark Dodson indicated over the weekend that a deal could be close, adding: “Our hope would be that we can have a couple of games as a test with a view to moving there.”
A number of ground-share agreements are in place in England and Wales, with the likes of Swansea City and the Ospreys rugby union side using Liberty Stadium, Reading and London Irish both hosting games at Madejski Stadium and Bristol Rovers and Bristol Rugby setting up home at Memorial Stadium.
However, in most cases, the playing surfaces involved are a hybrid of grass and plastic, similar to that laid at the BT Murrayfield Stadium last summer, which ensures restricted wear and tear.
Previously, there were criticisms made of the standard of the pitch at Partick Thistle’s Firhill when they shared with Glasgow Warriors, who relocated three years ago, and the then Hibs manager,
Tony Mowbray, opposed a proposal for Edinburgh to move in to Easter Road in both 2004 and 2006 because of concerns over the playing surface.
There has been talk of a formal ground-share on and off since the then-named Edinburgh Reivers used Hibs’ home for Heineken Cup matches against Ebbw Vale and Toulouse in 1998, with
Edinburgh’s Murrayfield home proving much too big for the small crowds the side can attract.
However, although backing Hibs’ attempts to raise extra revenue from attracting other uses for Easter Road, including Friday’s hosting of Scotland’s controversial friendly against Qatar, fans’ chief
Mike Riley admits the doubts raised previously about damage to the playing surface persist.
Riley, chairman of the Hibernian Supporters’ Association, said: “I think Hibs have got to look at all aspects of making use of the stadium. If they can find an outlet for bringing in extra money then that’s a good thing.
“Whether that would be detrimental to the park and the playing surface would be a different thing, and I know that has been raised as a concern of the supporters on previous occasions.”