Analysis: Scottish Rugby needs a real plan for life after Super Series

Neil Meikle, Billy McHarg and Graham Shiel express concern about the role of the Premiership as part of the male performance pathway

Boroughmuir Bears and Glasgow Warriors 'A' in action during the Super Series Sprint. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Boroughmuir Bears and Glasgow Warriors 'A' in action during the Super Series Sprint. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

AS soon as Mark Dodson – who pinned his reputation and his ego on Super6/Series – became yesterday’s man, it felt like the league’s days were numbered.

With lukewarm buy-in from the pro tier above, resentment from the traditional club game below, and a Murrayfield performance department unwilling/incapable of providing strategic direction, the part-time professional tier created in 2019 was a sitting duck when Scottish Rugby began its review of the male performance pathway late last year under the shadow of a £10.5m deficit which needs to be wrangled back down to a manageable level.

The Covid interruption was undoubtedly a hammer-blow to the competition’s prospects, as was Dodson’s failure – despite bullish promises – to organise a cross-border element. Sure enough, confirmation of the league’s demise arrived as part of an update of that review process in mid-February, when it was explained that the performance department was going to instead direct future expenditure and effort on the reinstatement of Scotland ‘A’ fixtures, more professional ‘A’ team games and an expanded academy set-up in which the age-ceiling will be lifted from the current under-20 bracket to under-23.


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But getting rid of Super Series was the easy bit – working out what comes next for the top end of Scottish club rugby is the real challenge.

It is a big concern that we appear to be sleepwalking through this moment of huge importance to the future health of the game in Scotland with so little available detail on the plan, and without real accountability because there hasn’t been a functioning performance director for at least the last five months.

Heriot’s director of rugby Neil Meikle knows that few tears will be shed over the demise of Super Series beyond the six organisations who have lived and breathed it these last five years (and even a few of them have breathed a sigh of relief), but warns that the loss will be devastating for the whole of Scottish rugby in the medium to long-term if it means – as he fears – that the club game is cut completely adrift from the male pathway.

“We are losing a level of support for club rugby which has never previously been there,” he reasons. “And this is club rugby because you can argue the legal standing of the thing but these franchises or teams or whatever you are going to call them are based at rugby clubs and supported by people who are at rugby clubs.

“So, we’re about to take away a level of performance rugby from rugby clubs that isn’t going to be replicated any time soon in the Premiership. That means the Premiership will cease to exist as a development platform for professional rugby players.

“I’m hugely concerned that there is a lack of understanding of this across the club game, and that there is no plan for top end club rugby in Scotland.”

 

Heriot's Director of Rugby Neil Meikle. Image: Malcolm Mackenzie Heriot’s Director of Rugby Neil Meikle. Image: Malcolm Mackenzie

 

In fairness to the performance department, they’ve not made much of a secret of their broad brushstroke plans to focus as much as possible in-house where they can have full control.

But the problem with this approach is that a full schedule of meaningful ‘A’ team fixtures seems like pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking in the current economic climate, while cutting clubs out of the process is a sure-fire way of further tightening the already narrow pipeline for homegrown Scottish talent.

“If you look at any successful rugby nation across Europe there is a strong club game,” argues Meikle. “There are different tiers within each of those examples, and I understand that there is a focus on increased participation, but if you don’t have a strong top end and guys developing through clubs – bypassing them instead and going straight to academies – then the number of players emerging into the pro game is going to be extremely limited.

“We’re going to be increasingly reliant on the small number of kids coming through the private schools and signings from England or the southern hemisphere, which seems to be the model that the SRU are willing to accept.”

 

 

Under the new governance structure introduced late last year, performance rugby, including Super Series, is controlled and funded by Scottish Rugby Limited – the business arm of the organisation – whereas the Premiership is a Club Rugby Board [CRB] matter.

Basically, that means whoever comes in as the new performance director is under no obligation to factor the Premiership/club game into the performance pathway unless he or she sees fit – so it is up to the CRB to make that case.

“I think Keith Wallace [SRU Vice-President] and the CRB [which Wallace Chairs] have to step up and take responsibility for determining the direction of this top strand of the club game, because as it stands the current CRB governance structure does not allow for a focus on the performance end of its remit,” says Meikle.

“It is governed by the masses, with decisions made for the masses, but there needs to be a proportion of ‘club rugby’ which is not for community sport but performance development.”

“The CRB should be appointing an individual who is separate from all the clubs and understands performance development,” he suggests. “That person can then set a direction for the top of club rugby which isn’t influenced and filtered through each club basically looking for what is best for them, because that’s currently what happens and you don’t really get the right rugby outcome for anyone.”

For Meikle, the outlook for Scottish rugby in just three years’ time is stark unless the nettle is grasped now.

“We’ll be exactly where we were 10 years ago, with players getting paid big money at certain clubs and not at others, and there will be a complete lopsidedness in the Premiership, where you’ll have the top four or five teams continuing to drive ahead in terms of standard and set-up, but not the high level of rugby we need on a week-in and week-out basis,” he says.

“There will be no players who come through the club system and then go on and play professionally for Edinburgh and Glasgow let alone Scotland. There will be no association between Scotland players and the Scottish clubs moving forward … we’ll have killed that.”

 

Ayrshire Bulls Chairman Billy McHarg. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Ayrshire Bulls Chairman Billy McHarg. Image: © Craig Watson – www.craigwatson.co.uk

 

Billy McHarg, Chairman of Ayrshire Bulls, shares Meikle’s concerns. He points out that during the Super Series period, 16 players, two coaches and a general manager have gone from the Bulls into the pro game.

“What we’ve lost is about £1.2m of investment into the top end of the club game – going up to about £2m if you take in costs like the TV coverage and Murrayfield wages – and the product was beginning to work,” says McHarg. “But they’ve done a paper on it, and the Club Rugby Board have gone down this route, so now we’re back to square one.

“Going forward, there needs to be another semi-pro set-up and the only way we can drive that forward is through the Premiership. So, the Premiership will reduce from 12 teams to 10 in 2025-26, and it will probably have to go down to eight soon after that. I think that’s the maximum number to have enough good players to create the product we need.

“First and foremost, we need to be looking at the eight strongest clubs financially – because you’ll get the best players if you pay money. That’s the market we’re in whether you like it or not – club rugby at this level is now a business – and it has to be if you want to drive standards.

“Going forward, the criteria should be set for a Premiership club that they need to have a 1st XV, a 2nd XV and an under-18s. That’s imperative. And I would make sure that the under-18s are playing in a properly competitive national league.

“I think we’ve turned the club game back 20 years by going away from Super Series,” he adds. “I’ve accepted it, and Ayr have accepted it, but going forward we need to have successful clubs still driving the top of the club game or the sport in Scotland is going to be in bigger trouble than it already is.

“I think the performance department has washed its hands of it, so now it’s up to the Club Rugby Board to step up and help us make sure that the top of the club game doesn’t become irrelevant.”

 

 

It is easy to focus in on what all this means to the clubs, but the real tragedy is if it means young players in Scotland not being given a fair chance to reach their full potential because they are either not exposed to adequate rugby experiences at the right age or there are not enough entry points into the performance pathway.

“The thing for me is that this is a young group we are working with, and some might come through, but they need time and the right environment,” said a despondent Graham Shiel, head coach of Boroughmuir Bears, after last weekend’s loss to Watsonians.

“Where are they going to get that now?” Is there a pathway? The answer is ‘no’! Nobody at this point in time can honestly say what the path for young players looks like.

“We are talking about a generation of young players who want to progress, and they have absolutely no idea where to go. In fact, we’re probably now in our second generation of players with no pathway. It’s frightening.”

 

Boroughmuir Bears head coach Graeme Shiel. Image: © Craig Watson -www.craigwatson.co.uk
Boroughmuir Bears head coach Graeme Shiel. Image: © Craig Watson – www.craigwatson.co.uk

 

Despite a couple of days to decompress, the former Scotland centre’s sense of frustration had not subsided when he spoke earlier today.

“I always said Super Series was not the answer, but it could have been part of the solution. Now we have to replace that lost part of the solution with something else which is equal or better, and that’s my issue because if you look at it on a whole host of different levels – player pathway, player opportunities, medical opportunities, S&C opportunities, coaching opportunities, refereeing opportunities – it is a whole industry we have just shutdown.

“Now I get that it is a small industry, but at the same time there is now no pathway and there is no information. Are the pro teams getting extra budget to run this ‘A’ programme properly? It looks to me like a stop-gap solution. There was a lot of chat about an enhanced Premiership but is the central funding going to be there to support that, spread between 12 instead of a 10 teams in that league?

“If we are going to end up with 70 or 80 plus players at each pro team, where are they all going to get their rugby game-time from?” Shiel asks. “If you have guys just going in there to train on a daily basis, that’s not a good place to be because they get demotivated and it can get very destructive, to be honest.”

It is worth noting that none of Meikle, McHarg or Shiel are saying that the Premiership is a basket-case. There are some excellent players and coaches already operating at that level before the reintegration of Super Series over the summer. Gregor Hiddleston is a great example of an individual who was given a step up and put in the shop window by the Premiership before moving on to Stirling Wolves and then very quickly to a full-time deal with Glasgow Warriors. There are others.

But there is room for improvement, with a huge up-side for all of Scottish rugby now and in the future if we finally get that interface between the club and pro tiers right. There has to be some sort of hard-wired connection, at least for academy players who need regular game-time and can benefit from being exposed to different environments. We need a plan. We can’t go on making it up as we go along.


Super Series Sprint Final: Ayrshire Bulls and Stirling Wolves both want the last word

About David Barnes 4002 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

56 Comments

  1. I see in today’s papers – Monday 17th June – Townsend has named a list of english based, Scottish grannie players, who have ALREADY represented england, as potential tourists this summer. There’s a heads up for all you Scottish born, bred, domiciled players who have played all your careers in Scotland; give up now cos you’re wasting your time hoping to make it to a full cap. Townsend and the SRU need replaced NOW if Scotland is to have any tier 1 future.

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    • I understand your point, however it isn’t the ‘familial’ connection I find a problem, it’s that the SRU’s apparent failure to produce players superior to the English ‘Cast offs’. Mind you I suspect they are age grade cast offs, so in that respect I suppose we should applaud them for doing our job for us.
      As Jimmy Greaves used to say, its a strange old World Saint.

    • Abject nonsense. You think Scotland will not pick any ” Scottish born, bred, domiciled players” in the future and they are all “wasting their time hoping make it to a full cap” (your words)?

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    • Surprised no one has come up with suggestions for the touring squad, will be interesting to see GT’s selections for a tour which is ripe for blooding new and upcoming players. Impressed we know what’s already in next Monday’s papers😀

    • Congratulations, Mikey!
      You’ve managed to include a reference to content in “papers – Monday 17 June” in a comment dated 10 June.
      Admirable foresight, and a tribute to the excellence right here on TOL.
      PS – any tips for Ascot next week?

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  2. Having read through some of the comments again it brought more thoughts to mind therefor I’ve just gone on to the SRU Website [Revised Structure] to clarify in my own mind the Players financial structure of the game below the Two professional sides, unfortunately it didn’t answer my question, however within the first couple of lines the catch all excuse for inept performance is there: ‘Covid’ or the Wuhan Lurgy as I prefer to call it.
    Then ‘Fluctuation in Player engagement’ what does that mean? Is it a collective problem that has been identified of players falling off Tackles? Dodson speak seems to remain, I presume it means decreasing levels of players in the amateur game, if that’s what they mean, just say it: and don’t get me started on why they call it the Community game, it sounds like a social workers keep fit suggestion.
    What I really wanted to find out is, are there [I presume there are] semi professionals in the leagues below the Two professional clubs with support from the SRU. If not how do the Clubs finance themselves, is there a Club ‘Sugar-Daddy’ surely there must be support from the SRU because looking at the attendances that I saw in the Super-sicks, oops sorry Super Six games it didn’t appear to be troubling the Turnstile.
    For what it’s worth and without any conviction that it is an answer to the problems of a pathway, I would have thought that the suggestion I made of a main league below the two professional teams, with two regional leagues should be at least part funded by the SRU supported by revenue from Club merchandising, advertising and gate and season ticket revenue as well.
    I would imagine that could encompass amateur players as well if they have the ability and are able to comply with the commitment, why not would be my thought to that, although that might be a view through ‘Rose-tinted’ Specs.
    The teams in those 3 leagues should be Club sides, not composite teams, surely continuity is one of the primary ways to obtain improvement with the additional Esprit de Corps of ‘I play for Melrose’ rather than Southern Knights that offers little in identity, unlike South of Scotland as a representative team, if as usual you get my drift.
    Anyway just a thought, others as always are available and valid criticism always accepted, otherwise if I have made some obvious error I’m unlikely to be aware of the fact.

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    • Bottom line isn’t really necessarily financial – it’s a complete lack of pathway for a 16/17 year old to end up with a full cap

      • Well what about having a two tier regional/district competition drawing from what I presume are the 3 semi pro leagues as I suggested and a similar competition to run in conjunction for the amateur sides below, those leagues.
        If held on the same day the Amateur fixture followed by the semi pro that may be a good window for talented youngsters in the amateur clubs, you could add on possible versus probable as well to up the game time, or is that going too far back into the past.
        I am really unsure about academies I think experience playing is more beneficial, and perhaps the selection for the ‘representative’ aspect for a regional or district competition would compliment the Age group selection process, just a thought, surely the SRU or CRB or a knowledgeable reader of the OSL could with better knowledge than I have work out something meaningful.
        Organisation doesn’t have to cost shed loads of money if you put your mind to it.
        Perhaps I’m just suggesting my lack of knowledge as an excuse for being too lazy to try and deal with the complexity of the problem, but I am certain in Roseburn Street there are plenty on a decent wedge that should be addressing the problem today, tomorrow over the weekend and repeat until a viable solution is found.

  3. Welcome back promotion and relegation. The Edinburgh centric disaster can be put behind us as identity is reinstated in the Scottish game and the pubs in Melrose will again empty at 2.30 as the supporters who went awol warm to a real team rather than the laughably named Southern Knights.

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    • Well I have to agree with the sentiment, I’ve never really felt as ‘connected’ to the International side as when the players were selected from named Club sides in the amateur days, somehow observing Glasgow Gonads or other contrived team names in the Jersey doesn’t offer me the same feeling of ‘collective’ if you get my drift. I know it is probably irrational but there it is and as ever other views are available.

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      • Totally agree. Pro players in Scotland should be adopted either by the club they came through or, if they’re imports, have a club assigned. When playing for Scotland the programme should read, “John Doe (xyz rgc and Edinburgh/ Glasgow. Some affilation to clubs by pros wouls encourage a whole new level of fan support. Yes, “back in the day”, supporting Scotland when one of “your” club players was selected, heightened the enthusiasm and support

  4. Rugby must be one of the most polarized sports financially. On one hand, big stadia can charge exorbitant prices for nearly all international games and still sell out and yet on a top flight domestic club level – be it England Wales or Scotland – typical attendance is usually somewhere between 5,000 – 15,000, with a few exceptions. And it’s incredible to think that in England’s second professional tier, crowds are frequently around 3,000-4,000 and possibly less. I really don’t know how player salaries can be supported on such low ticket sales but hey, the World Cup draws millions of viewers and pounds. It just doesn’t add up to me and obviously didn’t for some Premier League teams either. Some other countries manage way better, notably Ireland and France in the Northern Hemisphere; I imagine a mixture of better corporate sponsorship/backing and/or more indirect state backing at some level. So Scottish pathways where 7,000 at Scotstoun is a good crowd, are always going to struggle, the money just isn’t there at the moment. I don’t think Super 6 was a bad idea as such but it was always going to need more funding than was available and it was badly executed in other ways (franchise distribution, not concreting pathways for younger players etc.). If we can only afford 2 pro teams and then everything else is “amateur”, I can’t see a pathway emerging. An 8 team Premiership would almost be a Super 8 but without a formal underwriting from SRU. There really ought to be a better relationship between academies and whatever the league below the pro teams is but that takes time, organisation and commitment and in turn, the non existent founding required. Wish someone could find the answer.

    • The very simple fact is that in England, Scotland and Wales (and probably in Ireland too) the general public have little interest in club rugby. International rugby yes but club rugby no. Until those running rugby in these countries appreciate this and also appreciate that without these clubs they would have no international players (other than those found overseas) professional rugby will gradually die with more and more clubs and regions folding.

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      • Thank you Alan for summing up my views in many fewer words! Interesting reading all the other comments and judging from the relative number of likes and dislikes, there is no universal view other than there should be something to bridge the gap between the pro teams and club rugby. What that something is is hugely debatable and needs proper funding from somewhere. Only Smarties have the answer, probably.

  5. Could someone explain to me what exactly the CRB, Keith Wallace and the SRU have accomplished over the past 3 months besides take us backwards? All i see is a lost pathway with no clear thought or implementation of a plan to replace it.

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  6. In this time of need when will the SRU appoint the new CEO and Performance Director who can then pick up many of the suggestions kicked off by Dom Ward’s excellent article ?

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  7. Mossy 77 your the only guy on here thats asking the questions.So according to rumours most of super six clubs will retain a high number of super six players.Where do the first team player of these clubs go.Let us look at Ayr for example there first team ran away with the league last season.Its now been quoted this team will be the second team next season ? Do these clubs think that this squad of boys that got them promoted will be happy to play second team rugby at ayr.Most of these boys will turn up pre season and then decide the future.So in theory there could be more boys to exit the game.Also I find it interesting to read from billy mcharg about the loss of investment going forward as there now a buisness. What did ayr do with super 6 money ?Did they use any to help the grass roots game at ayr.like many others they spent there super6 money paying tourist x pro and taxi companies.Super 6 was a step up in level which we all know was to bridge the gap.Ayr like others were guilty of not having a route from the club to super 6 team.There was one coach in my opinion tgat tried to play the development game that was graham Shiel.At the other end you had Pat mccarthur only focused on wining every sprint or championship trophy.Going forward clubs that can afford to pay players via sponsorship or club donations will win titles this was ayr model for years via the stewardship of billy mcharg

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    • While the S6 core clubs seemingly intend to retain the majority of their S6 players, underwritten no doubt by the SRU’s generous (unnnecessary?) “parachute payment” bung, where will be the level playing field / competitive integrity of the Premiership going forward if the other clubs contesting that division are not going to receive similar financial largesse…?

      That said, while stifling a chuckle at Billy McHarg’s weasel words, Neil Meikle is spot on about the over-arching shortcomings of the CRB (and those who sail in it) to properly address issues of performance development at the top end of the domestic league set-up – while Shiely correctly identifies the absence of any coherent elite pathway structure for emerging, aspiring player talent via both Premiership and Age-Grades.

      Given the importance of all of this, a huge task awaits the incoming DoR & CEO, such is the lack of confidence in the assembled ranks of EH12 blazeredom, from the financially-embattled John McGuigan, through Crerar’s (anonymous) Custodians to the mixed bag of over-promoted, over-fed SRU merchandise-sporting bufties on the CRB.

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    • I don’t think many will exit the game purely because they are no longer 1st XV players, many will just go elsewhere as players filter down the leagues as expected.

      My son has been in and around a Prem team for the last 18 months. Like many others he’s waiting to see what Super Series signings will be made by his club. If he feels he’s unlikely to be near the 1st XV squad he’ll drop a division (or two) – the feeling is that Nat 1 will be dominated by the Super Series sides, so isn’t really an attractive option for next season.

  8. We all seem in agreement that a strategy and plan are required. The people involved in Super 6 seem remarkably quiet on their ideas of what happens next. It surely is something more substantial than we want more Super 6/8?

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  9. Players don’t get better because they get paid some money. They get better through the best possible coaching and facilities. That is what clubs should be committing scarce resources to, not providing pocket money to players.

    Leave the union and the CRB to set the pathway and work collectively to support and guide them along the way. It would be disgraceful, in my opinion, should the club game not be seen as part of the pathway. It has been and it’s pretty clear that it remains so. Paying players per se doesn’t strengthen the case for clubs to be part of the pathway. I agree that the pathway for players moving between the club and the (semi) pro game needs to be clear, regular and smooth.

    We should work to make the club game the highest standard possible, nurture players through the system (as many as possible) and provide a platform into the professional game where payments can then become a factor for the players.

    It feels a dangerous notion that clubs can and should fill the financial gap left by super six. If the Union couldn’t afford it, how can the clubs be reasonably expected to? This could lead to a misdirection of resources, a focus on the short term, and (aside from the odd journeyman) a zero sum game as players simply rotate from one club to another based on available payments. Lesser clubs get weakened as talent migrates away too quickly.

    I do agree with the thrust of the article in that more, not less money and resource should be made available to the clubs to help develop the game from the bottom up; both quality and quantity of players. And this is especially so post super 6. In reality though, none of the super 6 funding is coming back to clubs and the wind is blowing in the direction of less, not more funding for clubs. That would be a mistake and counter productive to the game.

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  10. every one had their views on S6 and are fully entitled to have them. My own view is that it was not perfect, far from it, but it was better than what we had in terms of a performance pathway. And it was badly hampered by the pandemic almost from the start; it could and should have been tweaked to make it much better. Many disagree, I’m ok with that.
    What does make me angry is that there is nothing in place to replace it. Meikle and McHarg are spot on. All we got were airy fairy words. Shameful that a clear thought out and swiftly implementable plan was not part of the announcement to close down S6; the lunatics are now running the asylum. Like Boris Johnson’s brexit plan. There was none. Those associated with this sort of stuff should all consider their position; they clearly are not up to the job

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  11. Key issue for aspiring u 23 age Pro and Scotland players in clubs , Academies or in the full Pro squads is how do we get them more game time when the SRU is not flush with cash and ex Super6 sides are holding on to their Super 6 squads , many of whom are past 23 and unlikely to make Pro level but still preventing game time for u23 aspirants !

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    • Play U23’s in the club game , it was good enough for Hogg, Finn Russell , Ritchie , Gray , George Horne and many others too numerous to mention

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  12. A very good addition to the debate. I applaud these spokesmen stepping up and sharing their views.

    I’m rather puzzled by the content of this piece though. If I understand things correctly it’s only now that S6 is beginning to show that it “works”. The players that moved into pro rugby have only done that as a result of this competition and with its demise we have set Scottish Rugby back 10 years. All with scant evidence to back any of this up.

    Indeed it has removed £1.2m of “investment” from the game. That is worth much deeper analysis though. Half of this money came directly from Scottish Rugby. There is evidence in the company accounts of the S6 entities that they are under financial distress. Almost as if running a business requires you to generate a profit or at best break even. There has been speculation that more funding would be required if the contract was extended beyond the initial 5 year agreement. Where was that to come from? others have commented here on the fallacy of professional rugby. It can’t pay to keep itself. Super 6 comes from the same mindset.

    What is more interesting issue is what is Super rugby for? I don’t think I know what that is anymore. A vehicle to develop emerging and young players? Didn’t meet that brief. To pick up late maturers? Possibly but scant evidence that happens in pro sport never mind rugby. Develop U20s? That was a specific aim. Our standing illustrates the failure there.

    Where I do agree with this article is the need for a strategy and plan. Wishing something, even if that’s written on a glossy document doesn’t make it happen. We need more detail and things happening not platitudes.

    What Murrayfield and the S6 entities seem to have missed is the rugby eco system. We are all dependent on each other. The I’m all right because I’m in the inner sanctum and we can forget about the little people is short sightedness to the extreme. Not wanting to wallow in others grief, but that wasn’t great for the club teams of County, Melrose and Boroughmuir. If Super 6 was such a great thing – why would those club sides be in the leagues they were in?

    As we have learned over these past five years, developing international sides is hard work that requires sustained and focused effort. To reframe this with a counterfactual – if the same effort was expended on the premiership would we be any worse off?

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  13. Players don’t get better because they get paid some money. They get better through the best possible coaching and facilities. That is what clubs should be committing scarce resources to, not providing pocket money to players.

    Leave the union and the CRB to set the pathway and work collectively to support them along the way. It would be disgraceful, in my opinion, should the club game not be seen as part of the pathway. It has been and it’s pretty clear that it remains so. Paying players per se doesn’t strengthen the case for clubs to be part of the pathway. I agree that the pathway for players moving between the club and the (semi) pro game needs to be clear, regular and smooth.

    Work to make the club game the highest standard possible, nurture players through the system (as many as possible) and provide a platform to the professional game where payments can then become a factor for the players.

    It is a dangerous notion that clubs can and should fill the financial gap left by super six. If the Union couldn’t afford it, how can the clubs be reasonably expected to? This could lead to a misdirection of resources, a focus on the short term, and (aside from the odd journeyman) a zero sum game as players simply rotate from one club to another based on available payments. Lesser clubs get weakened as talent migrates away too quickly.

    More, not less money should be made available to the clubs to help develop the game from the bottom up; both quality and quantity.

    • You might want to speak to your coaches who are out offering players money Blair….. 🤣 Not to mention your big second row who gets paid to “coach”…..

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  14. Why not draft the academy/Pro partnership players to top flight clubs and have an arrangement where clubs get x amount of money each season but must have, for arguments sake, 3 minimum in their matchday squads. If there’s an injury crisis then exceptions can be made.

    For those clubs of limited means who don’t pay players, they would get players who could maybe stop them pumped most weeks and make for a more competitive and hard edged league.

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    • Problem with drafts is that clubs are already struggling to grow their game, keep amateur players playing, why should amateur club players have to be elbowed out by pro academy draft players with no connection to the club? We’d end up losing genuine club players to enable the SRU to plonk the responsibility of solving the academy game time problem onto amateur clubs. The Super Series is the bridge between the two which could accommodate game time for both academy players and exceptional club players with the necessary tweaks and correct funding channels. It’s scandalous that there is no plan, although there are murmurs of trips to South Africa for A team games, how much will that cost? At least SS kept the money in our own economy.

  15. The first part of the article that made me immediately want to comment was “it is a whole industry we have just shutdown” another individual describes the Premiership as the ‘Product we need’. Well grudgingly I understand that Business terminology has crept into the Rugby ‘Business’ unfortunately Business awareness hasn’t crept in with it.
    To use their terminology, the ‘Business’, doesn’t earn enough money other than at the International level, a factor that many of the professional players [and no doubt at the sharp end, their Agents] don’t want to recognise.
    And it isn’t just in Scotland, there’s hardly a Club in the English Premiership that isn’t mired in debt and few that if you remove the debt are even then failing to make a significant profit to justify the wage structure.
    If Scottish Rugby is to retain its position [just] at the top table it needs to realise the errors of judgement that have in my opinion been committed by the SRU. As an example the Super Six was it a total disaster, well no it showed us the ineptitude in Murrayfields decision making and whenever I viewed a game the variance in ability was noticeable, I don’t think it was the Arena for a young player to learn, that apart if the SRU were not supporting it the gate money didn’t that’s for sure.
    I know the article is about concern for the Clubs and the lack of progression for Scottish Youth players to have a ‘pathway’ to the Professional and hopefully International status, but as a rugby nation we will be going nowhere until there is an acceptance at SRU Murrayfield that it isn’t just our critics that bemoan the increasing lack of Home-grown talent, Residency is the cost effective method of fielding a competent side if you can’t work out how to make the best of your own talent.
    Familial qualification has always been acceptable to me, however much as we have appreciated the input from Residency qualified players to maintain any credibility the vast Nucleus of Scots qualified for the Jersey should be qualified by birth or parental factor.
    The SRU also have to accept that their revenue is finite and to reprise a politicians catchphrase ‘prudence’ is required. The SRU must not be driven or enticed down the road by Anayi and others in opting in to ever more costly aspects. The URC for instance are desperate, for commercial reasons attempting to coat-tail the Men’s game with fixtures for a Glasgow and Edinburgh women’s team: if they opt in where does the money come from because the reality is it is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paula and that will not assist the pathway for the Men’s game and that is a realistic concern that has been voiced for many seasons past and whether we like it or not it is the Men’s game that is the Revenue maker.
    But where does the blame lie, is it just because the game went open? That’s a significant factor but another is the inability to make the changes in a structured fashion, World Rugby looked at the marketing, sales and Tv. revenues and just let everybody go their own way as can be clearly seen by the differential in the Home Unions.
    The structure in Europe is further skewed with the strength of French rugby with massive support from local authorities or major corporations supporting club sides, Michelin a classic example, what’s more the Stadia are authority owned as ‘Local amenities’ in many cases. If you want evidence of the differential in revenue terms look at the attendances, view a Top 14 game then look at the spectator numbers at Glasgow or Edinburgh by comparison no wonder the French Clubs can get the likes of Dan Carter.
    As an aside just what do the marketing and sales people at Murrayfield do? Do they attempt to help the clubs with their advertising revenue, have they ever thought of finding an advertiser [or more] with an appropriate product that could be on the Perimeter advertising boards on the back of a Murrayfield deal? “Buy a package of advertising boards and hospitality at Murrayfield and we will organise advertising at all the Premiership Clubs” in truth it isn’t that difficult, it would help the clubs and don’t tell me they couldn’t find a space for a Major advertiser and enjoy the extra revenue.
    The SRU and the Clubs need to immediately realise each others responsibilities in that the Clubs need to be given a structure and more importantly financial support, the days of running a Club in the amateur days have long gone, no volunteer Bar Staff, the Club Doctor an ex player, the Physio his wife, no former 1st XV players coaching in spare time for expenses, in fact no body does anything for nothing these days, especially the players.
    There are so many aspects that need to be addressed not just in the clubs but in the Schools, if the private schools don’t want to take part in a Scotland Schools competition, fine just make an effort to organise a competition for the State Schools, I thought that’s what Russell’s Dad was doing. Look for regular support from the government, local or national, start to make an effort SRU and whilst you are at it, don’t be shy: let us know about your progress, its our game not just your biannual Jolly to Paris or Rome.
    As usual, from me, no real answers only questions, but there again I’m only an Alickadoo that’s pleased [for myself] to say I think I so the best of the Game, I wonder if the lads starting out today will say the same in 50 years time.

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    • “The SRU and the Clubs need to immediately realise each others responsibilities”

      To me, this is one of the key statements in what you’ve written. And it needs to be well publicized and understood so there can’t be any comeback if one or the other party doesn’t like something.

      • Don’t disagree with that thought, however the unfortunate aspect is that prior to Professionalism there wasn’t a disconnect from the least successful XV to the Jersey there was a path, although tenuous, the point nobody seemed [to want?] to consider at the time was that Professional and Amateur Sport are similar to Oil and Water, they don’t mix, that’s why we are where we are now, but you can’t put the Toothpaste back in the Tube, and even if you transfer it to another container you would leave some of it behind, if you get my drift.

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          • Well you can’t ‘Brush’ the problems away, but if you don’t use the brush and toothpaste you will not want to ‘Smile’, we musn’t let the Game ‘Decay’ otherwise the Grass-roots game will become Toothless!
            Sorry Chris, you started it.😄

          • Well you can’t ‘Brush’ the problems away, but if you don’t use the toothpaste you will not want to ‘Smile’, we musn’t let the Game ‘Decay’ otherwise the Club game will become Toothless!
            Sorry Chris, you started it.😄
            [Hope it isn’t duplicated]

            • It was indeed duplicated, George. Most of us just reckoned you were filling a gap with those indented comments.

  16. Can some one please explain to me why the clubs are not a part of the performance pathway , when players like Finn Russel , Ritchie Gray , Stuart Hogg , faegerson , George Horne , Scott Cummings (and that’s just off the top of my head , there’s a lot more) have come through the club system .Why is there a problem now ?

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    • I couldn’t understand that either (why clubs can’t be part of the performance pathway). There’s suddenly no way to identify talented players in club rugby and introduce them to the professional game? What’s stopping it? I don’t understand that part at all.

      That would be a huge concern, given that I’m pretty confident an u20 side could be assembled from club rugby that would run an academy select u20 side very close. i.e. not all of the best young players are in the academy set-up. The best u20 backs I personally saw last season were Prem and Nat 1 players that weren’t in the academy.

    • I think Finn Russell and George Horne are the only two who spent time in Club rugby. Russell is especially interesting given he decided to go down a level to Falkirk – maybe that was more to do with him and his attitude to learning.

      The others were playing pro rugby in their teens.

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  17. I think Scottish Rugby, and by this, I don’t just mean the SRU, I include clubs and rugby supporters have ‘shot ourselves in the foot’

    We have thrown out the bathwater and the baby!!

    My understanding was the the Super 6 was an opportunity for contracted semi pro players to gain more game time but with an emphasis on U21/23 players being given a platform to grow…. so where did it go wrong..!!

    The competition very quickly lost this model and turned into a drive to win the series..with the growth of young players set aside for the drive of league success.

    Only to be expected as each club had to
    back up their involvement with money and like any other sponsor based endorsements, a winning team gains more support, more support improves sponsors brand exposure and encourages other sponsors. More income for the club increases opportunities to encourage better players…and so we go on…

    It could have worked but the SRU would have to have financially backed it 100% and they could then have dictated a stronger line on U20/23 players involvement. That was never financially viable due to the fragile financial situation the SRU find themselves in.

    So, now we are back to where we were 5/10 years ago.

    Currently the SRU are drafting young players to their Academy model with some of these players never playing an adult club game.

    I’m not an expert on players development but I see young players giving everything to rugby for 2/3 years only to be cast aside at 20…It’s all wrong. There was a big issue a few years ago about young football players on measly full time contracts then discarded with no trade or education to fall back on. The SRU are doing the same.

    By all means develop young players but give them
    back to their home clubs and allow them to grow into adult rugby over a couple of seasons.

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    • Academies are not in my opinion the answer I think you are correct young players learn from the experience of playing within a Club and in a constant environment not a faux competition whether organised by the SRU or not.

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      • I heard from someone pretty high up in the pro coaching set-up in Scotland at the weekend, that openly said that the academy set-up isn’t working and he’d recommend that young players went overseas to develop as players if they get the opportunity. Absolutely damning.

      • I think academies could work – it could be a “Monday to Friday” and then you can play for your club at the weekend – or blocks through the year.

        These Players should have the opportunity to play up and to play down. By playing up, play with people in the pro-environment – learn from them, see how they deal with and fix challenges as they arise on the pitch. And by playing down, go to their club and pass on knowledge to aspiring academy players.

  18. Welcome back to real club land gents. It exists throughout all 4 corners of the land. It is vibrant and positive unlike 2/3rds of your comments.
    What is more, someone has managed to mould the Premiership to the way you wanted , and by the looks of it will continue to do so.
    Club rugby is this nation’s rugby lifeblood from National 4 to Caledonia North 3, from West women’s 2 to intercity reserve, and from women’s Premiership to east league 1. S6 may have thought less of clubland before but we are here, aspiring and welcoming you with a passion that you might just have missed.

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  19. At last total sence , well put by the correct and good people that understand the game in Scotland unlike the CRB under KW who has taken Scottish rugby back to the future with the current direction of travel

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  20. So the bunfight begins … it’s been conceded that Super 6 was not necessarily the answer but the lack of forsight and a viable alternative will plunge Scottish club rugby into a much more uncertain and perilous period where the undoubted front runners will be the clubs that have the deepest pockets. The suggestion that the new top league will be amateur is nonsense. Clubs that can aFord to do so are going to pay players and there will be a battle for players amongst the heavy hitters. Some Super 6 players may find some Semi pro clubs but not many I would suggest given the track record of how many have had difficulty securing semi pro rugby even outside Scotland. The lack of thought in the new system will undoubtedly see significant variation in squad depth and ability not only in the top league but also the leagues below , as someone has already stated – to the extent that it could be a player safety issue. Striking County and to a lesser extent Boroughmuir probably the best examples of this in that they are likely to retain a good few of their Super 6 team but will be playing in a league well below their capabilities.
    What happens to the 2nd XV player’s displaced by the sudden surge of Suoer 6 players coming back into the club game , where will they go ? Look at the Borders decision to reinstate the Border Junior League , there will be significant variation in squad strength with this if the top league clubs inherit Super 6 players back – are Peebles , Gala , Jed , Selkirk going to see many players back into their squads , I doubt it.
    Should 2nd XV leagues have been restructured at the same time because there is likely to be an even greater potential for mismatches , player safety within the current structure the 2xv leagues current operate in ?
    How will Melrose fare , the club that has probably dealt with Super 6 with the poorest strategies and particularly man management , how many players will return to the club side and what will happen to the present club players ? Rumour has it that even despite their 7’s they are skint…. There is far too much uncertainty around every aspect of the new league setup and there are likely to be many issues.
    It may even out over a few years but can Scottish rugby afford to lose even more ground from where it currently stands.

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    • Mossy some interesting points. I think the Borders semi-junior league is a great example of new (old) thinking, local clubs paying games at times to maximise player availability, the minimise travel and increase bar revenue. These are essential for clubs survival but even then games went unfulfilled.
      I’m not sure you can say Melrose handled Super 6 the worst, when Stirling and Boroughmuir let their clubs sides drop down the leagues as they spent money on mercenaries.
      It’s going to be an interesting season when we see how many players actually stay at what clubs and what financial impact that has on clubs.
      The loss of earnings could be what impacts on players as they will need to recoup that money somehow. Clubs with the deepest pockets or best links to jobs could flourish. As with the Premiership for the last 20 years the biggest budgets teams will rise to the top by spending on players, free kit coaches and facilities.

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