Dodson hands clubs £1,000 cash boost – but impact of Super 6 still a concern

Debate over which league Super 6 'club' teams should play remains a major sticking point

Mark Dodson
Mark Dodson at yesterday's AGM of the SRU ***Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson***

EVERY rugby club in Scotland will receive £1,000 per annum more than they were initially promised through the new Club Sustainability Awards [CSA] programme, it was announced by under-fire Chief Executive Mark Dodson at yesterday’s SRU AGM.

Dodson has been the focus of some fierce criticism in recent months over the lack of clarity as to how his new Agenda 3 programme – which aims to revolutionise the way club rugby in Scotland is organised and funded – is going to function. Concerns have been raised that some clubs will be worse off as part of the CSA system of distributing cash, which offers four different levels of payment to clubs depending on their satisfying certain ‘operating standards’.

Dogmatic Dodson was never going to concede that his initial funding plan, which was unveiled with great fanfare at last year’s AGM, might have needed adjustment, and he insisted yesterday that this increase which relates purely to the organisation’s financial performance during the last 12 months. The benefitting clubs will not be too concerned about the reasons behind this sudden rush of generosity and will just be thankful of the cash boost.

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“Critics have claimed that currently only a handful of clubs will meet the gold award criteria, and that’s true. But what they’ve assumed is that the current levels of Unions support will remain static, and that’s not the case,” said Dodson.

“We have the ability to raise the levels of support at each band dependent on the health of the business, and that’s where the strength of our financial performance continues to deliver at grassroots level.

“I’m delighted to be able to announce today increased support at every club in Scotland. I am delighted to confirm that no club in Scotland will be worse off through the introduction of Minimum Operating Standard. Clubs will now have until September 2021 to reach the Minimum Operating Standard, yet we’ll pay these clubs until then as if they have reached the target.

“And we intend to go further, increasing the reward for moving through the system. Reaching the Minimum Operating Standard will now result in a payment of £2,500 (up from £1,500), the bronze level awards which the vast majority of our clubs currently sit in will rise to £4,500 (up from £3,500), silver awards will rise to £6,000 per year, and the gold awards will rise to £11,000 (up from £10,000).”

There remains, however, a number of serious obstacles which need to be overcome before there is anything approaching a consensus amongst the clubs that Agenda 3 can deliver on its promise of creating a truly sustainable domestic structure.

With that in mind, the two motions put before the meeting were passed with overwhelming majorities.

The first motion, which was proposed by Aberdeen Grammar and seconded by Marr RFC, secured the right of clubs to debate Agenda 3 – and specifically the impact of the creation of a closed Super 6 division which will sit above the domestic league structure – in an open forum at the AGM, then complete questionnaires which will be returned to the SRU by the end of October, with the whole process to be overseen by the Council Standing Committee on Governance led by independent Chairman Gavin McColl QC. The three specified areas of concern are: placement of Super 6 amateur teams in the domestic leagues and the potential of a moratorium on these sides being promoted into the new top tier of Championship; the definition of amateur players within the league below Super 6; and season and league structure.

There was a relatively brief debate immediately after the vote on this motion covering all the issues involved, including some well-reasoned and eloquently delivered arguments on both the rights and wrongs of the ‘club’ teams from Super 6 franchises playing in National One in 2019-20 (with the prospect of being promoted to the Championship the following year). Proponents of both points of view made compelling cases, which served to highlight just how intractable this major sticking point is going to be.

The second motion, proposed by Haddington and seconded by GHA, enshrined the right of clubs to have the final say on the format of national club competitions within the Union’s bye-laws.

The other ballot at this AGM was for the new Vice-President of the organisation, with Iain Barr of Lasswade securing 106 of 194 votes cast to achieve the required overall majority in the first round of voting.

The meeting concluded with Dee Bradbury of Oban Lorne (and mother of Scotland back-row Magnus) stepping up from the Vice-Presidential role she has occupied for the last two years to succeed Rob Flockhart as the first female President of a Tier One rugby nation.

  • Dodson also confirmed yesterday that the cross-border element of Super 6 will involve playing against the top six teams in the Welsh Principality Premiership at the end of the 2019-20 season. It was not clear what the format of this competition will be.

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About David Barnes 3956 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.