AS A group of my friends prepared to head to the Inter-City derby last weekend, anticipating another record attendance at an Edinburgh-Glasgow Warriors match, there was a sense that something of a feel-good factor has returned to the domestic game.

It is very much the right time of year to be reflecting on such things and the way in which the marketing of these matches seems designed to capitalise on people returning home for Christmas stood in strange contrast with my 28-year-old son’s experience when planning to join me at Dens Park on Boxing Day. Having endured the pain of constant ribbing about Dundee’s travails while growing up in Stirling amongst, for the most part, Celtic and Rangers supporters, it seemed an additional kick in the teeth when he was told that because there was no evidence of him on the club’s data base, he was not allowed to buy a ticket for the match.

We are all aware of the particular issues that surround matches involving Scotland’s best supported football clubs and, through friends, he did ultimately manage to acquire a ticket to sit in a far from full main stand, but it speaks to the opportunity that professional rugby has in that there are no such considerations to accommodate.

All that needed to happen when the sport went open was for its advocates to get behind its leading players if an alternative was to be provided to, in particular, parents who were keen to enjoy the experience of taking their children to watch professional sport without exposing them to some of the more unsavoury aspects associated with football crowds. Instead what remains a tiny community engaged in interminable internecine bickering that held back the development of the professional game with no opportunity missed to lament the damage done to the old-fashioned club game that could never have generated sufficient players to compete with countries that boasted far larger playing bases. The advent of social media means that even to this day a platform exists to keep recycling and seeking to justify out-dated arguments, but those putting them forward have been marginalised.

The proposed ‘Super Six’ competition that is due to be introduced in 2019 may or may not provide what remains something of a missing link between the club scene and the professional game, but either way the impression is that the vast majority are willing to buy in to whatever is proposed and that may be partly down to our age. In particular my impression is that many of my own generation who were militant in terms of what was characterised as the ‘clubs v districts’ debate, have reached an age where, no longer able to participate, they simply want to enjoy watching the sport they grew up with, reminisce among their friends and evangelise about rugby’s often over-stated virtues to children and grand-children.

It is, meanwhile, now 22 years since the sport went open, a period in which another generation has been born, bred and raised in a world in which they have never known anything other than the professional game as it is now. Relatively few of them could tell you much about the controversial creation of the Border Reivers, the third professional team that went into abeyance a decade ago and even fewer know that the initial plan was to mirror the four-team Irish set-up with the Caledonian Reds making up the numbers in the north.

To date the biggest beneficiaries of this mood change have been the marketeers, as demonstrated when around two and half times as many as watched the champions of our national game play at Dens on Tuesday, attended Murrayfield for a domestic rugby match last Saturday.

That was in keeping with the excellent attendances at the national stadium throughout November for the autumn Tests and we can expect that to be repeated at the forthcoming Six Nations Championship.

As when a record of the wrong sort was broken on Scotland’s visit to Twickenham in that competition last year, the recent efforts of Glasgow Warriors in the European Champions Cup suggests our coaches and players still have work to do to live up to the hype generated on their behalf.

My anecdotal evidence is, though, that as they seek to do so they have never operated in a more favourable environment.