THE latest consultation documents created by Scottish Rugby, to look into how the 2020-21 club season can be structured to cope with the challenges presented by the Covid-19 crisis, have eased concerns about there being no competitive league rugby during the next year.
If the best-case scenario of a 31st October start date can be achieved – which is entirely dependent on the implementation of the Scottish Government Routemap progressing without any major hitches – then the Premiership, National and Regional Leagues should be able to run their full course with promotion and relegation at the end (but no cup competition).
However, if a delay in the implementation of the Scottish Government Routemap pushes the return of rugby backwards to November, then the option for a full competitive league programme disappears from the planning, meaning that clubs will have to make do instead with a ‘local rugby’ programme (which seems to be ad-hoc friendlies) followed by a ‘competitive cup’ competition or ‘informal league’ programme.
Breaking it down
The ‘competitive cup’ competitions would involve Premiership and National One clubs being split into four regionally defined pools of five or six clubs to play each other on a home and away basis, with the winner of each pool progressing to the semi-finals.
Suggested pools –
Pool 1: Boroughmuir, Currie Chieftains, Edinburgh Academicals, Heriot’s, Musselburgh, Watsonians.
Pool 2: Aberdeen Grammar, Dundee High, Highland, Stirling County.
Pool 3: Gala, Hawick, Jed-Forest, Kelso, Melrose, Selkirk.
Pool 4: Ayr, Biggar, Cartha QP, GHA, Glasgow Hawks, Marr.
The same would happen with National Two and National Three clubs, in the National League Cup –
Pool 1: Caithness, Gordonians, Perthshire, Falkirk, Howe of Fife, Kirkcaldy, Strathmore.
Pool 2: GHK, Glasgow Academicals, Greenock Wanderers, Hillhead Jordanhill, West of Scotland, Whitecraigs.
Pool 3: Lasswade, Murrayfield Wanderers, Peebles, Preston Lodge, Stewart’s Melville, Berwick.
Pool 4: Ardrossan Academicals, Carrick, Dumfries Saints, Newton Stewart, Hamilton Bulls.
The regional leagues – East, West and Caledonia (split into Midlands and North) – will divide their teams into Shield and Bowl competitions to avoid any major mismatches.
Meanwhile, the ‘competitive league’ proposal follows a similar format, with the Premiership and National One clubs, the National Two and National Three clubs, and the regional league clubs, each being lumped together and then split into conferences of between four and seven teams based on region/travelling distance. There would be no promotion or relegation in this format.