When the Glasgow National Hockey Centre was built in 2013 in time for the city’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games the following year, it felt like the sport finally had a home worthy of the name.

This was where national teams would train, play matches and host tournaments, while club, regional, university and school sides would also enjoy regular use of the facilities on Glasgow Green.

A decade later, however, and it has become the source of rising frustration among the thousands who use it every week, tarnishing what ought to have been a lasting legacy from a Games that so enraptured the whole of the country.

Among the myriad complaints are that most of the facilities within the centre – that cost £5m to build - have been run down or mothballed, with barriers in place to stop players gaining access to changing rooms, no café or other services for spectators and insufficient medical provision.

And all the while clubs claim they are being charged more for a service that has been massively reduced since it reopened after the pandemic when it was used as a Covid testing centre. Imagine the outcry if the Scotland national football or rugby teams were asked to get changed in a separate building then asked to walk across a car park ahead of an international match.

Like many things in the post-pandemic landscape, money is at the root of the problem. Scottish Hockey are legal tenants until 2032 but the centre is owned by Glasgow Life, the body responsible for managing arts, music, sports and other events on behalf of Glasgow City Council.

Glasgow Life insist the funding simply isn’t there to fully reopen the centre but that doesn’t wash with Scottish Hockey who have tolerated the situation for more than a year but will do so no more. Supported by Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP, who raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament, the sport’s governing body are again imploring Glasgow Life to restore the centre to pre-pandemic levels amid fears that failing to do so could be fatally damaging for the sport.  

“We eventually got back into the building as legal tenants in September 2022 which was a challenge in itself,” explains Barry Cawte, Scottish Hockey’s CEO.

“From that point we just expected the facility would then re-open as normal. But it didn’t.

“We wanted to give Glasgow Life due opportunity to resolve it, going through all the appropriate steps. But nothing happened and we felt that we couldn’t live with this any longer. Patience has been exhausted.

“The key reasons that have been given for it not re-opening fully are energy costs and cost of living. But that’s a myth from my point of view. It’s poor management of the facility and inadequate funding that are the problem.

“I hear Glasgow Life talking about the lasting legacy of major events like the world cycling championships and COP 26. Well, this is a Commonwealth Games legacy venue and the national hockey centre and look at what’s happening. If we were talking about any other national stadium being near to closure there would be uproar. There is no other stand-alone hockey centre in the United Kingdom and there’s no legacy.

“It’s a sad state of affairs and I find it disgraceful and disrespectful that people who play hockey and use this facility on a regular basis have effectively been dismissed. It could be the death of the sport. I know that sounds quite dramatic but if you were to lose a national facility of this calibre in any other sport it would have a hugely detrimental effect. If the centre eventually closes, you’d be dashing the hopes and dreams of thousands of people of all ages who play what is a hugely inclusive sport all across the country.”

Already clubs are suffering. Paisley-based Kelburne, traditionally a hockey powerhouse, has seen numbers dwindle away due in part to the reduction in access to facilities while costs continue to rise.

“Having limited access to the facility has really hampered us in terms of developing our players,” said president Ryan Wood. “Kelburne has a rich history of producing players, both men and women, who have gone on to represent Scotland and Great Britain. All we want to do is give the next generation the same opportunities and right now we can’t do that. We’ve got players having to stand about in the rain and cold before or after games as there’s nowhere for them to go.”

“Not having the same access to facilities or time on the pitch we’re finding our membership has decreased,” said coach Rachel Ewing-Day. “We’ve gone down from about 300 to 200 members and we’re competing with clubs that can offer a better experience. We’ve become a development club where our more-able players will move on and experience hockey elsewhere. That’s a tragedy when you consider this was meant to be a legacy facility. It’s not been the elite experience we’d hoped for. Not being able to offer showers to international players is really poor.”

There is a potential investor waiting in the background keen to take over the ownership and running of the facility but it is a process that has so far moved at a glacial pace. And while that may prove to be the long-term salvation for Scottish Hockey, Cawte knows in the short-term there must be improvements.

“In an ideal world I would love Glasgow Life to look at how they administer and run their services,” he added. “I would love them to get better but I don’t have a lot of confidence in that right now. We’ve introduced them to another party who are interested in the site, who would like to invest and create more sporting opportunities here at Glasgow Green.

“But that was over a year ago and progress has been very slow. In the interim Glasgow Life have to open it back up fully and run it properly. Their way seems to be keeping it shut until a solution arises. That doesn’t make any sense to me.”

A spokesperson for Glasgow Life said: “The National Hockey Centre is one of many facilities across the country which haven’t been able to fully reopen following the pandemic due to funding.

“We have worked with Scottish Hockey to support access for their national squads and to ensure clubs and schools can train and play matches on the pitch whilst having access to nearby changing facilities.

“Glasgow Life has been articulating the need for national funding for national assets for several years, but Glasgow Life doesn’t have the money needed to reopen the stadium without reducing our offer or closing facilities elsewhere.

“We want to keep working with the governing body, SportScotland, the Scottish Government and other interested parties to find a solution and remain open to offers of support.”