TWO motions – one proposing that a modernised version of the Scottish Inter-District Championship for senior men’s rugby be set up in place of Super6, the other requiring full disclosure of how the £20m Scottish Government Covid support package is spent – have been submitted to Murrayfield ahead of August’s Scottish Rugby Union Annual General Meeting (date not yet announced).
The first motion – to revive the Inter-District Championship – has been proposed by GHA, seconded by Hawick, and has already received the required 10 letters in support from Full Member Clubs or Associated Bodies.
That a modernised version of the Scottish Inter-District Championship (with the inclusion of a potential Scottish Exiles squad) be reinstated from season 2022/23 onwards for senior men’s rugby.
A consultation on the format and criteria for participation in the Inter-District Championship should be instigated by the SRU Council with the aim that the competition format be agreed by 31st January 2022. The competition format and timing should take into consideration the needs of the player development pathway and the objectives of the role currently fulfilled by Super 6.
Resources currently directed by Scottish Rugby from the Domestic Rugby budget towards the Super 6 tournament should be reallocated to support the Scottish Inter District Championship and club rugby in order to support the player development pathway.
As part of the Season Structure Consultation that was conducted by the Domestic Rugby Department in 2019, the feedback received showed an overwhelming support for the reintroduction of Representative rugby at senior level.
The stated aim for Super 6 at the outset was: “The aim is for it to become the top level of Scotland’s domestic game and to be a proving ground for rising talent towards a full-time professional rugby career.” – Agenda 3
No consultation with Scottish Rugby’s members on the formation of the Super 6 tournament took place. Super 6 was imposed on the domestic game in Scotland without the agreement of the Clubs. As such, no analysis or debate was carried out to consider the wider consequences of introducing Super 6 for club rugby in Scotland, in the short or long term. Nor was any consultation held to consider alternative options, such as the reinstatement of the Scottish Inter-District Championship.
The Inter-District Championship represents a better model because:
1) Super 6 is aligned to 6 member clubs and creates a glass ceiling for clubs outside these 6 as there is no promotion or relegation into Super 6. This creates a monopoly within a selected tier of the domestic clubs. This undermines the pyramid structure and prevents fair competition. This poses a risk to the long-term growth of the domestic game. The Inter-District Championship is a representative competition therefore does not impinge the progress of clubs.
2) It can complement the club game by giving the most talented players the chance to be selected, on merit, to represent their District. This gives players something to aspire to, without those players being lost to the club game. There would be no need to sign Non-Scottish Qualified players to fill squads. The District model also resolves the ongoing issue within Super 6 of a significant number of players getting very little playing time, rather the players selected would have played and excelled for their clubs during the club rugby season.
3) Super 6 creates a governance issue where 6 member clubs are also license holders for a tournament that is funded from the Domestic rugby budget and which cannot be accessed by other clubs. There is therefore an irreconcilable conflict of interest in this model that undermines the good governance of our game.
4) Representative rugby is the model adopted in other countries including New Zealand and South Africa and is a proven model for bringing through talent.
5) Representative rugby ensures talented players can be identified and captured wherever they reside and arrangements made for those players to compete for their District. Super 6 does not enable players outwith the catchment area of those S6 clubs to take part unless the player is prepared to relocate.
6) It can also include a second tier competition to allow players from regional leagues for example to also gain representative honours.
7) The ability for Super 6 to grow a fanbase outside the clubs who fund them is limited due to the club allegiance inherent in rugby. This inhibits the commercial viability of Super 6 in a small country where rugby is a minority sport. District Rugby has the capacity to attract support from across the clubs within the District and is therefore commercially more sustainable.
8) It is part of our heritage. The first Inter-District Championship took place in 1953-54 and pre-dates New Zealand’s National Provincial Championship by over 20 years. It has substantial inherent and historical value that was and can once again be “a proving ground for rising talent.”
This motion is based on the conclusion that a Scottish Inter-District Championship would better meet Scotland’s needs for a coherent player development pathway fully supported by the Scottish Academy and club rugby systems and will be a tried and tested proving ground for rising talent towards a full-time professional rugby career. On the timescales proposed it will be fit for purpose to replace Super 6 when the current licenses come to an end.
The second motion relates to anxiety among a number of clubs at how the £20m received from the Scottish Government to support rugby through the Covid crisis is being managed by Murrayfield.
This £20m consisted of a £15m grant and £5m interest-free loan. The initial letter from the Scottish Government offering the grant stated that the intention was “to ensure rugby clubs at all levels of the game across Scotland are better able to cope with the financial challenges that COVID-19 has brought until such a time as spectators are able to return safely to sports events in larger numbers”. Meanwhile, the loan letter stated that the purpose was “to assist grassroots rugby clubs in Scotland with the damage caused to them as a result of their compliance with Covid-19 public health rules”.
The funding was announced last December, and Scottish Rugby Chief Executive Mark Dodson said soon afterwards that it had “allowed us to repair our balance sheet to a certain extent and that has been enormously helpful”.
It wasn’t until the end of April that Scottish Rugby announced that three separate funds worth up to £6.5m in total over the next five years were being created, which would allow grassroots clubs to apply for cash to support specific projects.
There is an interesting contrast here with how the Scottish Football Association handled the £10m Covid grant it received from the Scottish Government at the same time. That money was passed on directly and immediately to lower league clubs at specified levels based on the tier that team plays in.
When this issue was discussed at the SRU Council meeting on 21st April, it was claimed that as clubs had not had full running costs for the past year, it was expected that there would be greater concern regarding player numbers going forward than immediate cash concerns, and that the funding programme had been created to cover all bases for clubs “in the short, medium and longer-term”.
Scottish Rugby has also stated that any club with an immediate funding issue requiring direct intervention from the governing body should contact their Regional Director.
This motion has been proposed by Glasgow Hawks, seconded by Falkirk, and has also received over 10 supporting letters from fellow clubs.
Congratulations are due to Scottish Rugby Ltd in securing, on behalf of the Scottish Rugby Union, significant financial support (£15m Grant) from the Scottish Government ‘to support rugby clubs across Scotland that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.’ An excellent initiative that should be commended.
It is understood that this Grant comes with obligations, and that all bodies who will benefit from receipt of these funds are required to pledge that all Grant monies:
- will only be used to support ongoing Club rugby related operations;
- will not be used to fund any player transfer fees prior to the end of the 2020/21 season; and
- will not be withdrawn from clubs by Owners or Directors.
In addition to the grant, an interest free loan facility of £5m has been secured with a scheduled repayment date of 2042. Another excellent initiative in securing this.
The purpose of this loan is clearly stated as ‘to assist grassroots rugby clubs in Scotland with the damage caused to them as a result of their compliance with Covid-19 public health rules.’
Aligned to the clearly expressed desire for increased transparency and openness, as overwhelmingly expressed by member clubs at the AGM 2020, we, the Clubs, require that:
- a schedule of payments made from these 2 funds should be published and made available to The Scottish Rugby Council, or successor organisation, on a quarterly basis; and that
- assurances are given that any public funds allocated will not be used to support the recruitment of non-Scottish qualified players either directly or indirectly (by meeting other operating costs) through to end season 21/22.
The generous & unprecedented financial support for Scottish Rugby from the Scottish Government is extremely welcome. The use of these resources in a manner consistent with the Government’s published criteria, is paramount in maintaining the confidence of the Scottish Government in providing any future support for our sport. The proposed reporting of the use of these resources to member organisations, via our Council, will assist in developing that confidence.
The payment information to be published should be similar in nature to that provided for the recent Hardship fund.