Ayr Rugby Football Club

The future’s so bright, you’ve got to wear shades…

David Milloy

We love good news stories here at Ayrshire Magazine, so we’re delighted to say that one of Ayrshire’s most celebrated sporting institutions, Ayr Rugby Football Club, is going from strength to strength, both on and off the pitch.

If you follow rugby union you’ll be aware that Ayr RFC has been a shining light in Scottish club rugby for the last two decades, during which time it has won a number of Premiership titles and Scottish Cups. And in recent times, Ayr’s semi-professional rugby team, the Ayrshire Bulls, has added to that record of success in the Super 6 and Super Series competitions.

The advent of the Ayrshire Bulls in 2019 meant that Ayr’s 1st XV, the reigning Premiership champions and holders of the Scottish Cup at the time, had to drop a level to the National 1 league. After a somewhat shaky start to life in National 1 with a roster filled with younger, less experienced players, the 1st XV has worked its way back to the Premiership for next season and is expected to mount a stern challenge for the championship title once again.

Ayr Ladies 1st XV has also been doing well, winning National League 1 and qualifying for the promotion play-offs this season. The men’s reserve XV has also shone this season, winning more than a few games by the proverbial cricket score (the highlight being a spectacular 166 – 0 victory) and gaining promotion to the Inter-City Reserve League. And not to be outdone, Ayr’s under-16 and under-18 teams have also brought silverware home to Millbrae in the 2023/24 season.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a prettier rugby gound than Millbrae, home of Ayr RFC since 1964. Millbrae is, however, a little lacking in space for a club of Ayr’s size and ambition, and its location means that expansion onto adjacent ground is not an option. In addition, the road leading to Millbrae is very narrow, which often leads to congestion on match days. And with there being no possibility to widen the road, those using it at busy times have little option but to adopt a grin and bear it attitude to the likelihood of becoming embroiled in a traffic jam.

With these seemingly insoluble problems in mind, the club reluctantly decided in 2020 to explore the possibility of selling Millbrae and moving to Dam Park Stadium. This was not, however, a uniformly popular idea with Ayr supporters, and a campaign to save Millbrae as the club’s home soon commenced.

This campaign quickly came to the attention of Alan MacDonald, the former owner of Dawn Construction, whose son Barry had not only been a lifelong supporter of the club but had also played for it. With Barry having tragically passed away a short time previously at the age of 54, Mr MacDonald decided to provide substantial financial help to the club in memory of his beloved son, and thus was born The MacDonald Legacy.

Thanks to the largesse of Mr MacDonald, Millbrae will continue to be the home of Ayr RFC. A three phase update programme is now in motion, with the first phase tackling the thorny issue of access. To that end, work on a new road leading into the ground from Murdoch’s Lone commenced in March of this year. The creation of this new road will necessitate the relocation of Millbrae’s second pitch further to the eastern side of the ground, which brings us to the second phase of the upgrade plan.

The new pitch, on which work is scheduled to commence in August 2024, will be an all-weather 3G facility which will enable rugby and other sports to be played in all but the most extreme conditions. In addition, both the all-weather pitch and the main pitch, which will retain its grass surface, shall receive new floodlights. New access paths will also be created.

The third phase of the upgrade programme is slated to begin in 2025 and will see the refurbishment and extension of the existing clubhouse and shall include the addition of a café and performance gym. Although the first two phases of the programme are fully funded, the club needs to raise additional monies to meet the cost of the third phase. To this end, a fundraising campaign has commenced. In addition to a programme of events, the club is inviting donations via a crowdfunding platform, a link to which can be found below.

In addition to the works being carried out to Millbrae, the club has purchased Dam Park Stadium from South Ayrshire Council. As well as providing the club with the space needed to develop its training facilities, Dam Park will act as a base for the club’s youth and walking rugby teams and will serve as a Regional Performance Academy in conjunction with both the Scottish Rugby Union and the University of the West of Scotland. Moreover, its extensive range of facilities has the potential to be of benefit not only to the club but also other local sporting groups, and that’s yet another reason to be optimistic.

Ayr Rugby Football Club
Millbrae, Alloway, KA7 4PJ
www.ayrrugbyclub.co.uk

Crowdfunding appeal:
www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/ayrrugbyclub-1