Highlands & Islands

Ross County plan for SPL seating requirements at Victoria Park

Victoria Park
Image caption The plan would reduce stadium capacity at Ross County's Victoria Park but fit seating rules for the top flight

Ross County football club plans to install new seating to get its Dingwall stadium ready for the start of next season if it wins promotion to the SPL.

The club has lodged a planning application for Victoria Park.

The extra seating would reduce the capacity by removing standing room, but would fit in with SPL rules.

The chairman said the club would be an asset to the SPL if it was promoted this season. The Ross-shire club is currently leading the first division.

Roy MacGregor said Ross County had learned the lesson of both Gretna, which won promotion to the SPL but then went bust, and from English clubs, including Ipswich, about how to build community support.

'Not difficult'

The ground development would also avoid having to share the stadium owned by Inverness Caledonian Thistle, which is 12 miles away.

"If we're in the fortunate position to get up, I think we'll manage to upgrade the stadium," Mr MacGregor told BBC Radio Scotland's Business Scotland programme.

"We feel very comfortable we can do it within 10 weeks at the end of the season. They will be permanent stands. It's not a difficult job. We're downgrading the attendance, because we can get more standing than seating."

Mr MacGregor recalled his involvement with getting Ross County into the national league system in 1994.

That was swiftly followed by promotion to the second division, and Ross County has since then twice been promoted to the first division and once demoted.

The chairman credited its success to its community roots, having developed the first youth academy in Scotland, before Rangers or Celtic.

"We had a vision for giving opportunity for people in this area to develop as a professional footballer," he said.

"We extend that into the community, and we run a programme from Shetland to Stornoway to Oban to Elgin."

Boardroom boost

Explaining the club's business approach, he said the club learned from Ipswich Town, where David Sheepshanks developed the club to the point where a tenth of its local community was attending matches.

"We went to England, found the model, and bought it up here," said Mr MacGregor.

"If more clubs looked towards their relationship with their community, it would be better for their football. That's where football came from, and if football is to survive in today's market, it's going to have to work closer with its community."

Ross County advertised for new directors in a national newspaper three years ago, and he said that brought applications that boosted expertise in the boardroom.

Mr MacGregor is also chairman of Global Energy Group, the fast-growing fabrication and oil-rig servicing company founded in 2005, with bases in Inverness and Aberdeen.

It recently bought the Nigg fabrication yard in Easter Ross, and Mr MacGregor told the Business Scotland programme that he hopes to expand the privately-owned company from a turnover this year of £270m to as much as £500m within five years.

You can hear the interview with Roy MacGregor and more about the redevelopment of the Nigg Energy Park on Business Scotland, BBC Radio Scotland, at 10:00 on Sunday 19 February, and later on the iPlayer or by free download.

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