BIGGAR and Dalkeith are seeking support for the calling of a single-issue SGM to challenge the SRU’s decision to have no promotion or relegation between leagues ahead of next season.
As the only two clubs in Scotland to have already secured promotion out of their respective leagues when the coronavirus lockdown came into force five weeks ago, they were the big losers when it was announced that the season had been declared null and void on 31st March, and after being told that their appeals cannot be heard because it was a decision made by the Board using ‘emergency powers’, they have now decided to write to their fellow member clubs asking for their support to call an SGM.
The motion that clubs would be asked to vote for or against at the SGM would be:
“To promote those teams who had without doubt won promotion for the 2020-2021 season. Reverting back to the SRU’s intended structure following a full season of play.”
Mike Booth, secretary of Biggar RFC, emailed a letter (on behalf of both clubs) to the 137 full member clubs he had contact details for on Saturday, in which he laid out the rationale for this course of action.
“This would not alter the decision to ‘null and void’, only seek to rightfully reward successes already gained,” he explained. “We specifically do not seek to relegate any team and feel this would have little impact on anyone else.”
Under the SRU’s bye-laws, at least 24 full member clubs and/or associated bodies must sign the requisition for an SGM to be convened, and the meeting must be held within six weeks of the Secretary of the Union’s receipt of that requisition. A third of the total members or representatives eligible to attend and vote shall form a quorum, and a two thirds majority of those attending the meeting will be required for the motion to be passed.
“Whilst we all feel the pain of the Covid-19 viral pandemic and understand that a ruling had to be made to end the season, both of our teams were gutted at this harsh decision to overturn our championship wins and the natural promotions that should have gone with them,” wrote Booth.
“We have both exhaustively attempted to appeal the decision. However, our appeals have not even been considered. On the 10th of April we were sent a ruling by the Chair of the appeals committee informing us that the decision was made by the Scottish Rugby Board so we could not appeal to the National Championship Appeals Panel. We have since been informed by both the SRU President Dee Bradbury and Richard McGhee [Regulatory and Technical Executive for the Legal and Governance Department] that there is no other path for our appeal, effectively closing the door.
“The original decision was taken under the Board’s ‘emergency powers’, we suggest that they use those powers again, to change the league structures to 11 team National One and Premiership, and a 10 team East Region Division Two.”
When announcing the decision to null and void the season, the SRU stated that “extensive discussion and consultation has taken place with the various Championship and Competition Committee members, together with representatives from a wide range of clubs at all levels of the game”.
However, Biggar and Dalkeith contend that the manner in which club opinion was canvassed was fundamentally flawed.
“We believe that the SRU did not give the clubs time to look at what was being asked,” argued Booth. “Only 41 hours from receipt of the consultation e-mail to a reply being required, does not make for an ‘extensive consultation’.
“We were all asked for our ‘thoughts on this matter’. There was no suggestion that this was a ‘vote’ and that the decision was going to be made to look like we as clubs had made it, a point which has been repeatedly used to both us and the press.
“We believe that the choices posed in the consultation email were unfairly biased and flawed. Giving one option for ‘null and void’ and four options against ‘null and void’ inevitably diluted the ‘against’ vote.
“May I point out that ‘around’ 50 percent of the vote for null and void means that around 50 percent of the vote was against it. We have asked for clarity of the actual figures.”
Biggar had already claimed the National One title, and thereby promotion to the Premiership, when the season went into lockdown. Now, as it stands, they will not get the opportunity to test themselves against the top club teams in the country for at least another year.
Meanwhile, Dalkeith were an unassailable 17 points clear at the top of the East League Three table with all their games completed – having an average winning margin of just over 23 points – only to have the rug pulled from under them.
Responses to Biggar and Dalkeith’s request for support have only just started to filter in, and it is understood that there has been more positive than negative feed-back so far.
“Perhaps with weight of numbers we can get the change without need for the SGM but recent experience suggests otherwise,” added Booth. “The technicalities of holding the meeting are understood and it will be a rocky road for sure.
“We have all ‘agreed to be bound by the letter and the spirit of the rules and regulations’. We have attempted to follow the spirit, now we resort to the letter.
“We are reaching the end of any meaningful dialogue with the SRU – they have made it plain we should accept their decision and go away.
“Both club Presidents – Stevie Halliday of Dalkeith RFC and Johnny Bogle of Biggar RFC – believe that we have to do better by our players. We know that in the same situation you would be doing the same.”