BILLY McHARG, the long-serving president and treasurer of Ayr RFC, is to step down from both roles at the end of the season, it has been announced on the club’s website. His departure could leave a huge hole in the infrastructure at Millbrae, where he has been the key figure in building the club into one of the most successful and undoubtedly the best supported in the Scottish domestic game.
McHarg has been treasurer at the club for 16 years and president for 12 years, during which time Ayr have won three Premiership league titles, three national cups and developed one of the most impressive youth sections in the country. Their successful pre-match lunch programme – which regularly reaches its 150-guest capacity – demonstrates the deep roots the club has forged into the local community.
He says he has been thinking about taking this step for some time and grave misgivings about the SRU’s controversial plans to create an elite ‘Super 6’ league at the top of the club game has pushed him over the edge. The bidding process to take on a ‘Super 6’ franchise opens tomorrow [Wednesday].
He decided to make the call early in order to ensure a smooth transition and will not walk away from the club completely.
“I’ve had sleepless nights worrying about Super 6,” he explained. “I’ve worked really hard with a lot of good people over a number of years to get the club to where it is and I’d rather get out now than be at the wheel while Ayr slip backwards.”
“To me, the money doesn’t add up. But I don’t want to stand in the way if that’s the way the club wants to go. There has been no decision on this at Ayr yet, there is still a lot of detail which needs to be ironed out with the SRU, but as it stands it is not something I would want to be involved in.”
“It’s time for a change. I’ve been at it for a long time now and you can’t go on forever, so it’s time to get someone else in to drive the club forward.”
McHarg is an abrasive character, who seems to revel at times in rubbing rival club officials up the wrong way, but there is no doubting his passion for both Ayr and the game of rugby in general. Despite a tetchy relationship with some of the representatives from other clubs on the BT Premiership forum, he spoke highly yesterday of their contribution to the club game and all-round ability – which he hopes is not overlooked in Murrayfield’s drive for change.
There is certainly no danger of McHarg slowing down during the few months left before he plans to hand over the reins, and he has set his sights on restructuring the internal communication within the club to better connect all 550 registered playing members and 450 regular members.
Ayr were Scottish champions last year but have struggled with injury and form this season. Last Saturday’s defeat at home to Currie Chieftains saw them drop to fourth in the table and they are now deeply embroiled in what is shaping up to be an almighty four-way battle – against Heriot’s, Chieftains and Watsonians – for three play-off slots.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time so it was nothing to do with Saturday. It was a disappointing result but we still have a lot of influential backs missing like David Armstrong, Frazier Climo and Danny McCluskey, so I’m not getting too carried away. I know we’ll bounce back,” he said.
Ayr will be hoping that McHarg also bounces back from his present state of disillusionment.