THE stakes are high at Murrayfield today, but not just on the park.

The game will engender revenue of some #2 million, making it one of the

greatest money-spinners in European sport.

The new Murrayfield, a #44m citadel of Scottish rugby cast in concrete

and steel, was used for the first time in its 67,500 all-seated guise

for the match against the Springboks last November.

The #2m take for 80 minutes' play encompasses ticket sales, which

range from #5 for under-14s to the #22 full price ticket; television

rights; debenture and hospitality revenue; sponsorship, including Royal

Bank match sponsorship which has been running since 1982; trackside

advertising; car parking; programme sales; catering; and sales from the

revamped souvenir shop.

International rugby is now big business, and even within the last

decade the game has soared in popularity.

The advent of the Rugby World Cup has given the sport a hitherto

unknown exposure worldwide.

And since the inaugural competition in the Antipodes in 1987,

television coverage and ever-expanding sponsorship opportunities have

placed the sport on a financial plateau that could only have been

dreamed of when William Webb Ellis, allegedly, set the whole thing in

motion when he ran with the ball at Rugby School in 1823.

Probably, though, Webb Ellis and the game's founding fathers --

steeped as they were in the Corinthian ethic -- will be birlin' in their

graves at the sight of the financial bazaar which their game has become.

In the year ended March 31, 1994 -- the most recent period for which

complete figures are available -- the turnover of the Scottish Rugby

Union was #5,563,554. These are big bucks for an amateur game.

However, the SRU exists purely and simply to service the game and the

clubs in Scotland, and after operating expenses, tax, and other items

had been taken into account, the retained profit for the period was a

mere #16,649.

The tale of the growing popularity of the game, and the burgeoning

bankroll that has accompanied it, can be traced by the evolution of the

the stadiums which have been home to the national side in Scotland.

It all began on March 27, 1871, on the Edinburgh Academicals' cricket

field at Raeburn Place. On that date Scotland played, and beat, England

in the world's first rugby international. After expenses had been

deducted, the cricket club received the princely sum of #13 for the hire

of their ground.

Scotland's next home game in 1873 was played on the West of Scotland

Cricket Club ground at Hamilton Crescent. The fact that Glasgow, or more

properly Partick, was considered a suitable venue for such an important

fixture, indicates that, even then, rugby had influentil disciples in

the West of Scotland.

For the next 22 years, with the exception of three further visits to

Hamilton Crescent, the Edinburgh Academical ground was pressed into

service for rugby internationals.

But the relationship between the Union and the Academy became strained

(the school insisted on their boys using the ground on the mornings

before the big games). Old Hampden Park and Powderhall became emergency

venues while the Union continued its search for a permanent home.

Eventually, for the sum of #3800 financed then, as now, by a ticket

debenture issue, a plot of land was bought at Inverleith just a mile or

so to the north of Raeburn Place. Scotland, therefore, became the first

country to have its very own international ground.

A stand was constructed and the ground was ready for the Welsh match

in January 1899. However, the wintry weather intervened, causing the

game to be postponed, and it was not until the match against Ireland the

following month that Inverleith -- now the home of Stewart's-Melville FP

-- was officially opened.

By the early 1920s, the game had outgrown Inverleith and the hunt was

on again for new premises. Some 19 acres of land owned by the Edinburgh

Polo Club at Murrayield was earmarked by the Union, and the purchase was

once again facilitated by the issue of debentures.

The new stadium, with its stand and three embankments that were to

become a feature of the Old Murrayfield for the next six decades, was

some two years in the building, and by 1925 the ground was ready for


England were the visitors on March 21, 1925, and before a crowd of

more than 70,000 Scotland achieved the first Grand Slam in the nation's

rugby history.

In the years that followed, Old Murrayfield was further developed to

keep pace with the popularity of the game. In 1936, two wing extensions

were added to the cavernous West stand and the seating capacity was

raised to 15,228.

Like most sporting venues, Murrayfield operated a come-one, come-all

policy at the turnstyles. However, in 1975, when a world-record crowd of

104,000 (with many thousands more turned away) jammed in to see Scotland

beat Wales 12-10, the decision was taken to introduce a ticket-only

policy with an upper limit of 70,000.

In the early eighties, with safety considerations on the massive East

terracing principally in mind, plus increasing demand for a comfortable

seat, the decision was taken to level the terracing and replace it with

a new stand.

The #3.15m plan was financed largely by Scottish Sports Council grant

and by 5000 interest-free, 20-year loans of #400 for which the lender

was awarded the right to buy one ticket for each home international.

The Union toyed with the idea of two-tier stands on the end

terracings, with standing accommodation on the lower deck, but the

Hillsborough soccer stadium disaster meant the plan had to be


Lord Justice Taylor's inquiry and report, which decreed in 1990 that

all stadiums coming within the remit of the Safety of Sports Ground Act

1975 had to be all-seated by the start of the 1995 season, paved the way

for the new Murrayield super stadium.

The #44m cost was daunting, and especially so for an ''amateur'' sport

that had seen its ''professional'' counterpart dithering over plans for

a new national football stadium at Hampden.

Once again, though, the scheme was financed by the issue of debentures

to the rugby public. It is, though, a high risk strategy, the success of

which is dependent in no small measure on the fortunes of the national


Scotland's emergence from a string of nine games without a win was

greeted with glee, and not just within the playing camp.

Last week, in the aftermath of the team's historic win in Paris a

fortnight ago, they were uncorking the champagne in the debenture office

as well.

SRU finance chief Graham Ireland said that the French connection had

sparked a rush for debentures as fans sought to secure guaranteed

tickets for today's game.

''Inquiries are 100% up, and I'm confident that debenture sales will

be significantly in excess of #31m by the time of the Welsh game,'' he


Play up Scotland. Play up and pay the game!