Update from Managing Director Douglas Struth
As always, I hope that this message finds you safe and well. As we rapidly approach a new season, I wanted to provide you with an update on what has been an exceptionally busy time.
Open Day and First Matches at the ERS
Preparations are in full swing to welcome you to the ERS for the very first time.
I am delighted that we have been granted permission to host crowds of over 5,000 for matches and we cannot wait to welcome what is already shaping up to be a bumper crowd for the very first game in our new home against Newcastle Falcons. If you have not bought your match tickets or season tickets already, please join us be part of a very special moment in the club’s history – and do so before tickets are sold out! Tickets are available here.
Tomorrow’s Open Day will be a first chance for you to see our new home first-hand, a chance to watch the team in an open training session, and the first opportunity for you to see, in person, the new 2021/22 kit we launched today. Tickets for the Open Day are free of charge and can be obtained here.
One of our main focusses remains ensuring we deliver a safe and secure matchday experience for you all against the backdrop of Covid - while also preserving the integrity of our playing ‘bubble’ to mitigate against infection and/or players being lost to contact tracing. That means, for the time being, some of our matchday operations and the extent to which you can interact with the players are going to be a bit different. We all hope this will be temporary, but meantime I would ask for your patience as we adapt to these requirements and develop a new matchday operating plan and experience in a new stadium. We might not get this 100% right from week one, but I do promise that we will learn and get better every single week. With your feedback and dialogue, we will ensure that watching Edinburgh Rugby at the ERS is going to be very special indeed.
Edinburgh Rugby team
Preseason training started back on 19 July, with our Scotland and Fiji Summer Tour players then re-joining us on 9 August. The squad recently returned from a productive pre-season camp, and with Ramiro Moyano now having arrived and Harrison Lloyd joined from the Brumbies, we only await Hamish Watson’s return from his post-Lions leave and Emiliano Boffelli’s return from the Rugby Championship before the full squad is together for the new season ahead.
Mike Blair has settled well into his role as Head Coach. It has been fantastic to see the buzz around the squad and the positivity in our culture and environment since Mike’s arrival. I have no doubt we have an exciting future ahead of us and that we will see an exciting brand of rugby this season. I want to thank all our coaches, players, and people for the way they have all responded to change and pulled together over the Summer. We now move forward as a whole club into a new era, on and off the pitch.
The past few weeks have seen us announce several high-profile new partnerships. On 19 August, we announced that Scottish Building Society will become our new main club partner in a four-year, seven figure deal. The importance of that deal to the future sustainability of the club cannot be over-stated, and Scottish Building Society has already proven to be an organisation that truly shares our values. In parallel, we announced our former main club partner, Principal & Prosper, will continue to back the club by supporting a key element of our community engagement, the Prosper Programme. We are incredibly grateful for the support of P&P over the years and are delighted they have decided to continue to back the club in such a key initiative. Prior to that, on 11 August, we welcomed Peter Vardy BMW as our new vehicle partner, and in doing so added another key component of our partnership family.
Many other Affiliate Partners, Dun Eideann Club members and Business Club members have also signed up to support the club in recent weeks, as organisations of all sizes join our growing partnership family.
I cannot thank them all enough for their support.
2021/22 URC Fixtures
Last Friday, the URC announced our fixtures up to 8 January. The exact dates and times for those fixtures were first shared with me by URC last Wednesday, 48 hours before public release. Ever since then, I have been in regular contact with the URC to discuss some of our shared frustrations regarding the timing of some of our home games.
While acknowledging the complexity of scheduling fixtures for a new championship – which features eight broadcasters across five Unions – against the backdrop of our ongoing recovery from a global pandemic, I do still fully understand the frustrations that some of you have shared with me.
In previous seasons, our fixtures included a blend of Friday and other weekend matches. For example, the 2017/18 league season featured seven Fridays and four Saturdays, 2018/19 had seven Fridays and three Saturdays, and 2019/20 was evenly split with four Fridays and four Saturdays. Last season, we saw only one Friday, six Saturdays, one Sunday and two Mondays – but obviously no fans were present at those games.
So far, there is less of a blend in our 2021/22 home URC fixtures up to 8 January, with four of our home matches between now and then taking place on a Saturday, and one on a Friday night. I know that while some, such as families, are excited by the prospect of more Saturday rugby, others – particularly those with close links to the community game – are understandably unhappy.
Our commitment to working in partnership with our community clubs remains resolute, and we will be working as best we can to mitigate potential impacts on those clubs, and those of you who are closely associated with them. The exact timings of our URC and EPCR fixtures for the second half of the season are still to be confirmed and I will continue to work closely with both competitions regarding potential scheduling after January, taking all of your feedback into account.
Nevertheless, I believe with the four top South African sides coming into the URC and with a schedule that avoids any clashes with the international Tests, we have some mouth-watering games in prospect, with superstars of the global game playing right here in the capital in our new home. There is so much to get excited about, and I urge you to please continue to back the club in the way you have done so far.
Throughout the pandemic, I have closed off my updates with a note that I very much look forward to welcoming you all back, just as soon as we can. After everything we have all been through over the past 18 months, it is quite emotional to say that such a time is nearly here. Your support during this period has been, and continues to be, truly exceptional. I cannot wait to welcome you all in person at the ERS in the coming weeks!
See you very soon!
Douglas Struth – Managing Director