A CONTROVERSIAL new development at a rugby club playing field could win the prize of a national museum dedicated to the sport from the home of the Scottish game.
Campaigners have fought for years to have a purpose-built museum at Murrayfield, the encampment of the Scottish Rugby Union and national team.
However, now Edinburgh Academicals' £8 million stadium rebuild a few miles across Edinburgh at Raeburn Place in Stockbridge is to house memorabilia related to the country's international history, as well as the famous club's own story.
It has a key part in the game's history - at 157 it is the oldest club in Britain - and was the first in the world to host an international rugby match in 1871, when Scotland beat England.
The SRU is to work with the historic club on its museum project which is due to begin this autumn.
The Murrayfield museum is said to be "still a work in progress".
The push for a museum at Murrayfield, built in 1925, was led by fans and others connected with the stadium and its library, and three years ago a proposal for a £250,000 facility was put forward and agreed but critics say little visible progress has been made on that project.
The Academicals also face potential difficulty though, with many residents in Stockbridge opposed to the redevelopment of the ground next to Inverleith Park that will include a row of shops.
Frank Spratt, Academicals' president, said the museum's contents are still under discussion but video and interactive features will be included as well as artefacts.
He said: "One of the things we certainly want to do is highlight the ground's importance as where the first international was held - and some say the first international in any major sport. We've been speaking with other parties."
An SRU spokesman said: "We are actively engaged with Edinburgh Accies on this project.
"Edinburgh Accies are renowned as one of the world's oldest rugby clubs, having been established as far back as 1857.
"Scottish Rugby endorses the proposed redevelopment of the club's Raeburn Place ground and welcomes the club's desire to incorporate appropriate facilities to showcase the club, the venue and its place in international rugby's history. We look forward to continuing to work with the club as the project develops and commends the planned museum development to others within the wider rugby and sporting communities.
"We believe that this development will be of note to all those interested in the history and heritage of rugby football and the development of international sporting contests in general."
There is no estimated completion date yet for the Murrayfield museum, but special exhibitions at existing display sections are planned. The spokesman added: "Among the specific elements we're working on at present are material relating to the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, in which Scotland lost more internationalists than any other rugby playing nation."
Richard McBrearty, curator and historian at the Scottish Football Museum in Glasgow, said: "The club has an exceptionally important place not only within the early development of rugby football in Scotland but, in my opinion, within a broader history of football in the country prior to its codification along association and rugby lines.
"It is clear that a focal point for rugby football should exist within Edinburgh and that Raeburn Place, site of the historic first international match of 1871 would be the most appropriate venue for such an attraction.
"Raeburn Place, like the Edinburgh Academicals Club itself, is a living ancestor of the rugby game in Scotland and as such should be treasured."
Mr McBrearty added: "The proposals to develop the stadium facilities will help ensure that the venue is an excellent attraction for rugby fans, tourists and other users, and will be a benefit and credit to the city."