Biggar and Dalkeith seek support for SGM on promotion

Both clubs had unassailable leads in their respective leagues when coronavirus struck, but have been frustrated by SRU inflexibility

Biggar in action against Highland earlier this season. Image: Nigel Pacey
Biggar in action against Highland earlier this season. Image: Nigel Pacey

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.”


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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.”

Scottish Rugby Taxi Board Game

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.”


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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1818 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

14 Comments

  1. Biggar were handed the National 1 League trophy as Champions before the shut down and therefore should be promoted. Also 50 percent of clubs also didn’t make a vote on the null and void vote. As far as I can see this isn’t a vote for null and void and therefore should be undertaken again in an open and transparent way. It isn’t much to ask for is it SRu?

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  2. They are not the only two clubs to have secured promotion. Having played all their league games Aberdeenshire RFC would probably have lost the top spot in Caladonia 2 to Highland 2s who had two games left to play but second teams can’t be promoted into Caladonia 1 and no other team could have finished above Aberdeenshire.
    Orkney can also feel very hard done by. Although they still had seven games to play, they had gathered a maximum possible 55 league points from the eleven games they had played. I’m sure no other team in Caladonia 1 would have begrudged them promotion. I can’t really speak for them but apparently Orkney weren’t even contacted by anyone from the SRU during the ‘extensive consultation’ with the clubs on how to decide how to conclude the season.
    There are also quite a few teams who are looking at a second season in a row as the whipping boys at the bottom of their leagues rather than having the opportunity to rebuild in the league below. In most cases, this will do more harm than good.

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  3. Just another ‘ horlicks ‘ from Dodsons & co cronies.
    The SRU are a laughing stock just now .
    If there’s a right way to do things or a wrong way you know Just what this lot will do

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  4. It appears that Peter Wheeler at the RFU offered up a formulaic solution to the Green King IPA and the Gallagher Premier leagues that was worked out based on the games played prior to Lockdown and that gave a reasonable solution to promotion and relegation that was accepted by the participant clubs. From what I can ascertain this was an RFU recommendation, if that was the case whether right or wrong at least it showed leadership.

    Regardless of whether you consider the SRU decision right or wrong, to offer up a complex question and require an answer in 41 hours, if that is an accurate fact, does seem indecent haste especially as in ‘Lockdown’ Time was not one of the critical factors I would suggest.
    Is this a case of the easier decision being sought as quickly as possible and in effect saying ‘let’s just scrub the season, do it quickly and the problem will go away’. In many peoples opinion however it will just be offered up as another questionable issue as to the governance abilities at Murrayfield.

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  5. A few words on the “vote”

    I understand that five options were circulated to league forum clubs – but not all. Our district forum were asked to give our opinion on what we want to see happen with no options

    It wasn’t clear that this would be used to create a “vote”

    Given that four of the options were principally about finishing the league in what ever form, it’s ethically questionable that it’s a valid comparison.

    It should have been a two option vote. Null and void or complete the leagues recognising there are various completion options which would then be voted on once the principle vote was clear.

    It’s not like Murrayfield don’t know how to set up a fair vote. That they chose the option they did is poor governance There is no collation of the various votes or how many votes were cast. Well there couldn’t be as ALL clubs weren’t asked the same question.

    The decision making process is also fascinating.

    I was always under the impression the the championship committee was sacrosanct in making decisions on leagues. Imagine my surprise to read that the SRUL Board made the decision based on “emergency powers”.

    But then it gets murky. The Council had a recommendation from the championship committee which was further approved by the Council which was then executed by the Board. You what???

    But isn’t the Council supposed to be the supreme body?

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    • You’re right regarding the Council, they are the clubs representatives but do they represent the clubs well?

    • If you have the time Dom, can you contact Mike Booth Secretary at Biggar. My details are on our website.

  6. I stand by my opinion that with over 75% of the league programme being completed the current points gained by each club averaged out by games played should have resulted in a completed league programme. I don’t understand why the clubs voted against this ( bar those who had their own interest at stake) voted the way they did. However that’s what the clubs wanted and we should all respect their decision. The options that were put forward were not ideal but from what I gather 50% of clubs still voted for the season to be voided. Hard on some and a break for others. We just have to move on.

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    • Appreciating your thoughts that what is done is done let’s move on: do you not consider that IF there is a question to ask regarding how the SRU asked and subsequently considered the returns then as they say in legal circles, ‘we would like disclosure of the process and method of reaching a decision for the sake of transparency.

      Another contributor, Dom Ward does raise questions about the conduct of the vote and that not all clubs were asked an identical question, and that brought to mind a possible situation where the question asked to clubs that were not effected by promotion or relegation was in as many words, ‘under the circumstances should we declare the season null and void’: the non effected [obviously a majority] may well say ‘fair enough’, and if that had the overall effect of allowing Murrayfield to say a majority voted for null and void, that doesn’t seem good leadership or governance and in some minds would even be questionable.

    • Ok, I presume the lack of reply means you are sticking with your opinion, no problem, that’s what opinions are all about and if an opposing view doesn’t persuade you to take another look, that’s ok as well.

  7. A very unjust decision which does not have any transparency backing it – which is concerning.

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  8. Edit required: Aberdeenshire RFC had also secured promotion from Caledonian North 2 into Caley 1.

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  9. It’s a fair point about the consultation and the split of the vote against null & void – and even then Murrayfield couldn’t guarantee that over 50% of Clubs wanted.

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  10. If this happens a lot of clubs who were on the verge of promotion could also claim the right for promotion.
    I appreciate the Biggar RFC and Dalkeith RFC stance.

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