IT seems like a lifetime ago that Biggar and Dalkeith had their promotion dreams derailed by the decision to declare the 2019-20 Scottish domestic season ‘null and void’, but neither club has given up on their quest to have their pre-lockdown achievements recognised by elevated league placings when competitive rugby finally (hopefully) returns next Autumn.
Those two clubs – who had already guaranteed promotion when the domestic season was halted early due to Covid-19 in March – will make their case for a dispensation to the ‘null and void’ decision at a Special General Meeting of the Scottish Rugby Union, which will be held by video conference immediately after next Thursday’s AGM2.1.
The motion proposed by Biggar and seconded by Dalkeith is:
“To promote those teams who had, without doubt, won promotion for 2020-21 season, reverting back to SRU’s intended structure following a full season of play. This need not alter the decision to ‘null and void’, only seek to rightfully reward successes already gained. We specifically do not seek to relegate any team that does not wish to be relegated.”
The SGM needs a turnout of a third of the total members or representatives eligible to attend in order to be quorate, and the motion requires a two-thirds majority of those in attendance to be carried.
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“Of course, attempting to call an SGM in the middle of pandemic looks a little foolish,” acknowledges Biggar secretary Mike Booth, before explaining that both his club and Dalkeith felt they were left with little choice but to go down that route.
Concerns were raised back in March and April that the consultation process undertaken with clubs on how to conclude the 2019-20 season had been rushed, that the questions leaned towards reaching a ‘null and void’ outcome, and that there had been a general lack of uniformity in how club opinion was canvassed.
While Scottish Rugby stated that around half of respondents had supported a ‘null and void’ solution, it was pointed out that this also – presumably – meant that around half of clubs had voted against that approach. Requests for a breakdown of the survey results were rebuffed on ‘confidentiality’ grounds.
Having been pushed from pillar to post in their attempts to have their objections addressed by either the SRU Championship Committee, the Council, or the Board, the two clubs started to mobilise support from fellow member clubs, collecting 30 letters of support for an SGM (they needed 24).
If the motion passes, it will mean 11 teams in both the Premiership and National One next season (as opposed to 10 in the top-flight and 12 in the division below), and an 11-7 split between East Leagues Two and Three. This should not be a major headache for the fixture schedulers, although it might nibble into the Premiership and East One’s stand-by weekends.
The leagues can be rebalanced the following season (2022-23) with plenty of time to make sure that clubs are clear from the outset of the 2021-22 season on what is required to achieve promotion or avoid relegation.
“From the outside looking in, this might all seem a bit boring, but the situation we are facing as a club has, over the months, invoked both outrage and depression, and several emotions in between,” says Booth. “We have kept reminding ourselves that we won that promotion fair and square, we had been presented with the trophy by the SRU’s own representative, and had begun planning our future in the Premiership – we owe it to the players and our membership to fight for what we have rightfully earned.
“Whilst it appeared to turn into a battle with the SRU and the processes that have taken us down this route, we have to remember it’s about those lads and lassies who make up Biggar and Dalkeith Rugby Clubs,” he adds. “It’s about rewarding their dedication in turning out on cold and dark Tuesday nights to train in the snow and the mud. It’s about the minis, midis, girls, boys, colts, ladies and 2nd XVs, that all look up to the success our 1st XV has achieved and see what that dedication can bring.
“How sad it is that this couldn’t have been dealt with without the need for this battle, but we had to fight this decision with all the tools at our disposal, and we know that had this happened to any other club then they would quite rightly be doing the same.”
Booth urged all clubs to stay online next Thursday night to take part in the SGM, when Biggar and Dalkeith will both speak in favour of the motion, while delegates can message their comments to the Chairman, before the vote is taken.