The big announcement from the SRU AGM at the weekend concerning the future of club rugby in Scotland has certainly raised many eyebrows and appears to have been well received. The plan announced by Mark Dodson (pictured), the Chief Executive for Scottish Rugby, for the club game sets out a different structure from season 2019-20 with a clear line between Professional and Semi-Pro rugby, and Amateur Rugby. It has been clear that many BT National 1 clubs have felt themselves come under pressure to pay players just to keep up with other clubs with deeper pockets. The art of poaching players from other clubs has been the talk of the club game for several years now, and many clubs have lobbied the SRU because they are frankly sick of it. Some clubs have ambitions of becoming semi pro or even fully professional, while others want to stay in a division they are comfortable with both in terms of where they play in the league system and financially. So the SRU have taken everything on board and have been conducting extensive research before announcing changes in a couple of seasons.
Here’s a brief breakdown of the key points:
The BT Premiership will be dissolved and replaced by a six team franchise competition known as “Super Six.” Players won’t be salaried but they will be paid to play games and train.
Franchises are available to all clubs including those in lower divisions. One team will come from the Borders, one from Caledonia, one from East Scotland and one from West Scotland but two other “floating” teams. One of these teams could even be a new team made up from an area – is this an opportunity for The South of Scotland to return as a Super Six team? Whether or not the region could sustain more than one team is very much open to debate but the possibility is there, and if there is enough interest who knows? The franchise process will open in Autumn 2017 with a decision being made in February 2018 as to who the six teams will be.
The Super Six teams will play each other three times (15 games) with an extra 5 matches played in a cross-border competition (probably the British & Irish Cup). There will be no promotion or relegation for five years. Each club will have a squad of 35 players (or more if injuries occur.) SRU will contribute £62,500 per team for player payments – the other half coming from the club.
The SRU will appoint and pay for Head Coaches, Physios, Analysts and Strength & Conditioning coaches up to a cost of £65,000. These positions will be filled exclusively from the SRU’s performance programme. All travel and accommodation costs relating to the Cross-Border competition will be met by the SRU. The Management and Operational Responsibility for all six franchises will come from the high performance rugby arm of the Union and not the Domestic Rugby arm.
Four fully amateur leagues of 12 teams will exist below the Super Six league. The Scottish Championship will be the top tier, with National 1, 2 and 3 below that. Super Six 2nd XVs will be slotted into National 1 but could be promoted through to the Championship in future seasons. Strict amateurism will be enforced. Genuine expenses will be allowed but player payments will be outlawed. Any club failing to comply will be reported to HMRC with league points being deducted, fines and automatic relegation being potential punishments.
Player-coach positions will be outlawed. Each Championship club will receive £9,000 per year to help with off-field structure or medical provision. NL1 clubs will get £5,000 annually, Division 2 clubs £3,500 and NL3 clubs £2,000 each. There will be prize money for league winners. £10,000 will be in the pot for winners of the Scottish Championship, £7,500 for NL1 table-toppers, £5,000 for winners of NL2 and NL3 top club will get £4000. The 10 regional league winning clubs will each receive £3000.
Picture: Scottish Rugby