There are many unsung heroes in Scottish rugby but this week I want to single out for praise a group of individuals and companies without whom we would not have Murrayfield in its present form as one of the leading stadia in any sport in the world.

When the Scottish Rugby Union proposed the massive expansion of the stadium in the early 1990s, they looked to a tried and tested method of raising money, and issued debentures which I think were about £2k a pop on average – obviously the better seats came in  at bigger prices. And all that got you was the right to buy a ticket for your debentured seat for the next 50 years.

Companies wanting to offer hospitality to corporate guests – for whatever nefarious reason (only joking!) – snapped them up but a very considerable number of individuals stumped up the money, and I was told at the time that around 18,000 were sold in all, raising near enough £37m to pay for the project.

I have no written evidence to prove this, but I understand that many if not most debenture holders still hang on to their ticket rights, in which case they have my huge admiration for having stuck with Scottish rugby through some torrid times on the pitch and some huge upheavals off it. Remember, when these debentures were bought back in the early 90s, rugby was still an amateur game. All I can think is thank goodness the deals were done then, because would the same number of people step up to effectively subsidise professional rugby? I hae ma doots.

The SRU always stated that you could sell your debenture and up until March of last year there was a single company appointed to conduct such sales.

According to the SRU website: “Speirs & Jeffrey, the broker which previously provided a service matching buyers and sellers of Scottish Rugby Debentures, was sold to Rathbone Brothers last year. Unfortunately, they are no longer able to replicate this service provision within the Rathbones Group, and so ceased to provide this service from 15 June 2019.

“This service is an activity regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and one which Scottish Rugby is not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to conduct. Therefore, any future matching of buyers and sellers of Scottish Rugby Debentures will need to be done privately between individuals. Public auction sites are often used for sales and can be checked for availability.”

I am still not seeing any great signs of debenture holders rushing to sell their certificates, though one valued at £2,200 is currently on sale on e-bay for £2,495.

The point about debentures is that they are nothing new – the Royal Albert Hall in London was built using the system, and the original Murrayfield ground and stadium was acquired and built in 1924 using debentures.      

Some debenture holders were a bit annoyed in March this year when SRU Chief Operating Officer Dominic McKay wrote to them to say: “From next year the deadline for booking your debenture seats for the following year’s Guinness Six Nations, will be brought forward to 31 August. As demand for Scotland tickets continues to increase, we are continually trying to balance the rights and benefits of our key stakeholders whilst ensuring Scotland’s other loyal supporters are rewarded with the best possible offerings. A summer deadline is standard across the home nations and one we will also be adopting from next year.”

Having looked into it, McKay is right – the other Home Unions do set a booking deadline of August 31, and since the letter was written before the panicdemic (sic) started, it can’t be seen as a get rich quicker scam.

Debenture holders do have legitimate concerns - tell me about them - which I suspect are shared by most Scottish rugby fans: basically when can we watch Scotland at a full Murrayfield again? But one thing they should not be asked to do is to provide any more financing for the SRU.

It has stuck in my craw for the last 26 years that the National Lottery made no contribution to the re-building of Murrayfield for the simple reason that it didn’t start until 1994 and Bill Hogg and the other SRU high heid-yins were already well on the way to completing the project.

Other high-profile stadia have since benefited from Lottery largesse – Hampden Park and Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium both got over £40m, and the new Wembley got a reported £120m.

I am well aware that the National Lottery has been of benefit to rugby in Scotland, the club sustainability fund coming to mind, but the reality is that the money pumped into the sport here is a piffling sum compared to what other sports have received.

If companies and individuals can make a 50 year investment through debentures, why can’t the National Lottery not act now in this time of crisis and give rugby in Scotland even a small slice of the fair share it has never had.