The Boris Paichadze stadium, Tbilisi’s Soviet-era giant, has seen Georgia and Russia’s post-Independence rugby rivalry blossom with memorable clashes played before sold out crowds.
Georgia’s 2002 victory is seared into the minds of many fans. The game was won in dramatic fashion as the home team earned a maiden Rugby World Cup berth while denying Russia.
Weeks ahead of the fixture’s anticipated return to Georgian soil for the first time in five years, the future of rugby at the venue is in doubt.
In the midst of renovations aimed at bringing the ground up to elite European football standards, an exclusive 49-year lease granted by Tbilisi City Hall to long-time tenants FC Dinamo means it is seldom likely to be available once works are complete.
Lokomotiv Stadium, the country’s only other major venue, half the size at 25000 seats, will serve as a temporary home for national teams and is in line to host Russia March 17.
Georgia have encountered additional problems ahead of their weekend European Nations Cup clash with Portugal. Football officials, fearing pitch damage ahead of a midweek friendly with Albania, have forced a further shift.
The site will be the tiny Avchala complex, built for last year’s IRB Junior World Trophy, leaving thousands of Georgian rugby fans frustrated with only 2000 tickets available at double the price.
While matches in the November international window are thought to be booked for the Lokomotiv Stadium, Georgia will almost certainly be forced to explore alternatives for the 2013 European Nations Cup season with three home dates scheduled.
A football ground in Georgia’s second city of Kutaisi has been mooted as a possibility, though there is some question as to whether it meets requirements.
The construction of a rugby only stadium capable of accommodating Georgia’s legion of fans remains a remote possibility with access to elite revenue generating competitions proving evasive for the isolated easterners.