Seven options on the table for post-Super Series ‘transition season’

Premiership could consist of 10, 12 or 22 teams during 2024-25 season depending on CRB verdict

Future Edinburgh and Scotland back-rower Luke Crosbie drives for the line in Currie Chieftains colours, with future Glasgow pro Tom Gordon in support, while Johnny Matthews of Boroughmuir (now Glasgow and Scotland) looks on, during a Premiership clash in January 2018. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Future Edinburgh and Scotland back-rower Luke Crosbie drives for the line in Currie Chieftains colours, with future Glasgow pro Tom Gordon in support, while Johnny Matthews of Boroughmuir (now Glasgow and Scotland) looks on, during a Premiership clash in January 2018. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.ukwww.craigwatson.co.uk

A PRESENTATION outlining seven possible Premiership and National League formations for next season to accommodate the disbandment of Super Series has been issued to clubs, with feedback requested ahead of the Club Rugby Board [CRB] announcing their final decision on the matter on 15th March.

The variety of options available reflects the desire to consider all angles in a complex challenge, but it also reduces the chances of reaching a consensus which avoids a damaging outbreak of acrimony.

The goal is to find a solution to the tricky question of where in the league structure should the ‘Club XVs’ of Super Series teams not already promoted back into the Premiership play next season, without excessively punishing those clubs who took on Super Series franchises or unfairly disadvantaging other clubs who were not involved in Super Series, whilst simultaneously avoiding potentially dangerous mismatches and preserving the integrity of the Scottish domestic game.


Focus group to begin addressing Super Series fallout on Wednesday

Co-operation will be key to creating a successful post-Super Series pathway

Henry Pyrgos joins Boroughmuir Bears coaching team for Super Series Sprint 


The situation is further complicated by the lack of clarity on how many Super Series [part-time professional] players will return to the domestic league structure for the 2024-25 campaign.

Gav Scott, Scottish Rugby’s Director of Rugby Development, and his focus group which has been convened to tackle this task, certainly have their work cut out as they look to come up with a proposal which delivers on the following principles –

  • As fair to as many clubs as possible
  • Least disruption to 10 team National League structures and Regional Leagues
  • No club to be seriously inconvenienced
  • Season 2024-25 to be the transition season with the domestic league structure returning for season 2025-26 (1 x Premiership and 4 x National Leagues each of 10 teams)

The seven options are listed below (with the focus group stating that it views one, two and three as most viable, while four through to seven are more problematic) –

1. STATUS QUO

Club XV teams commence season 2024-25 as per initially scheduled, before the scrapping of Super Series was announced, meaning Ayr and Heriot’s will be in the Premiership, Melrose and Watsonians in National One, Stirling County in National Two and Boroughmuir in National Three.

Pros: Continuity as no change to the current format of 5 x 10 team leagues.

Cons: Potential for mismatches in National Two and Three which threatens competition integrity and increases the threat of injuries. Potential for Boroughmuir and Stirling County to be ‘seriously inconvenienced’ by having participated in Super Series.

2. 12 TEAM PREMIERSHIP

Club XVs currently in National 1 (Melrose and Watsonians) moved to Premiership and Club XV teams in National 2 (Boroughmuir and Stirling County) and below moved to National 1 for 2024-25 season.

Pros: Swift introduction of change. Recognises the likely strength of Super Series ‘Club XVs’. Swift introduction of change with no clubs relegated without notice. reduces threat of mismatches and/or potential for Boroughmuir and Stirling County to be ‘seriously inconvenienced’ by having participated in Super Series.

Cons: It means an ‘uneven treatment’ of Super Series ‘Club XVs”, would leave National Two and National Three with nine team leagues next season, and would mean funding allocated to the Premiership being split amongst 12 teams as opposed to 10.

3. 12 TEAM NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION ONE

Lift those Super Series ‘Club XVs’ currently in National Two and Three (Boroughmuir and Stirling County) into a 12 team National One for Season 2024-25.

Pros: Swift introduction of change, no clubs relegated without notice and improved chance (compared to option one) that this will provide equitable game play across the Board.

Cons: National League Divisions Two and Three will be reduced to nine team leagues for season 2024-25 while funding allocated to National One would now be split amongst 12 teams as opposed to 10.

 

 

4. 14 TEAM PREMIERSHIP

Integrate all six Super Series teams into the Premiership with National Competition Rules to outline how promotion and relegation will ensure 10 team leagues resume from season 2025-26.

Pros: Swift introduction of change, with ‘Club XVs’ reinstated to the league they were removed from when the Super Series competition came into effect. Limited disruption to approved league structures for one season and no clubs relegated without notice. Most likely option to provide equitable game play.

Cons: National One, Two and Three reduced to eight and nine team leagues for season 2024-25. Funding allocated to the Premiership would be split amongst 14 teams as opposed to 10. Unacceptable amount of team displacement at the end of 2024-25 season with five teams to be relegated from Premiership. Potentially another nail in the coffin of the Scottish Cup which Premiership would presumably have to forego in order to play extended league programme.

5. 10 TEAM PREMIERSHIP

Integrate all six Super Series teams into the Premiership with bottom four sides as opposed to just the bottom side all sacrificed.

Pros: Doesn’t matter. This isn’t an acceptable option.

Cons: Would kill all credibility in the entire domestic league structure.

6. 22 TEAM PREMIERSHIP (1)

Integrate all six Super Series teams into the Premiership along with all National One teams (as scheduled for the start of next season) to play in a 22 team home OR away competition. 10 team Premiership and National Leagues format for 2025-26 to be restored by 13 teams being relegated from Premiership (10 to national one and three to National

Pros: Status quo can return at the earliest opportunity for season 2025-26, and no reduction in the number of ‘home’ fixtures per team in the Premiership.

Cons: Temporarily reduces National Two and National Three to nine-team leagues, and three teams will effectively be relegated two divisions to restore the 10 team league format, with one team being promoted two divisions from National Two to the Premiership. Funding model between Premiership and National One clubs will need to be adjusted for next season and player payment discrepancies across competition would have to be addressed.

7. 22 TEAM PREMIERSHIP (2)

Integrate all six Super Series teams into the Premiership along with all National One teams to play in a 22 team competition, with teams would be split into two conferences (seeded) and teams within the same conference playing each other on a home or away basis in Stage One of competition. At the end of Stage One, the top five teams from each conference would continue in the Premiership (A) in a further round of fixtures on a home or away basis, and the bottom six teams from each conference play together in a Premiership (B) competition on a home or away basis. Premiership (B) will be renamed to be National One in season 2025-26 and revert to a 10 team competition through promotion to Premiership (one-up and one-down) and three teams relegated to National Two (one-up and three down).

Pros: Potential limitation to number of mismatches occurring through the competition and swift introduction of change.

Cons: Teams starting in the competition will not get the opportunity to play every team in the same competition before Stage One ends. Temporarily reduces National Two and National Three to nine-team leagues. Funding model between Premiership and National One clubs will need to be adjusted for next season and player payment discrepancies across competition would have to be addressed.

  • To view the full consultation document, click HERE.

Co-operation will be key to creating a successful post-Super Series pathway

 

About David Barnes 3912 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he 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.

36 Comments

  1. As a starting point, surely the simple answer is to ask the clubs themselves which division they’d like to play in. There will, of course, be disagreements among the clubs, but it should surely be within the purview of the clubs themselves, acting together, to sort out who goes where initially and then let normal promotion and relegation apply. Two up, two down, playoffs or whatever, let the clubs themselves decide. I think we’d be surprised by just how well the clubs would respond. The first season would probably be a bit of a mess, but if it was up to the clubs to sort it out, it’d be done a lot quicker and more sensibly and, more importantly, in the best interest of the club game, than if it’s left to the SRU.

    Nobody, either players or fans, wants to go out on a Saturday and be either consistently gubbed or outclass their opposition. We all want competitive games and to do as well as they can in them. The clubs themselves know their own strengths and weaknesses and that is what they want to play to. The SRU have created this appalling situation. Why on earth should the clubs, who have undoubtedly suffered hugely because of it, now leave it in the hands of the SRU to try to sort out the wreckage they have created and expect that they, the SRU, will not do so in a manner that suits the SRU and not the clubs?

    It’s high time that we accepted the obvious truth that the best interests of club rugby and the best interests of the SRU are not synonymous and that the SRU are entirely prepared to damage the clubs and the amateur game if they believe it suits themselves to do so, not least because that is what they have just done. It’s also high time the clubs themselves took back control over their own affairs.

  2. As a starting point, surely the simple answer is to ask the clubs themselves which division they’d like to play in. There will, of course, be disagreements among the clubs, but it should surely be within the purview of the clubs themselves, acting together, to sort out who goes where initially and then let normal promotion and relegation apply. Two up, two down, playoffs or whatever, let the clubs themselves decide. I think we’d be surprised by just how well the clubs would respond. The first season would probably be a bit of a mess, but if it was up to the clubs to sort it out, it’d be done a lot quicker and more sensibly and, more importantly, in the best interest of the club game, than if it’s left to the SRU.

    Nobody, either players or fans, wants to go out on a Saturday and be either consistently gubbed or outclass their opposition. We all want competitive games and to do as well as they can in them. The clubs themselves know their own strengths and weaknesses and that is what they want to play to. The SRU have created this appalling situation. Why on earth should the clubs, who have undoubtedly suffered hugely because of it, now leave it in the hands of the SRU to try to sort out the wreckage they have created and expect that they, the SRU, will not do so in a manner that suits the SRU and not the clubs?

    It’s high time that we accepted the obvious truth that the best interests of club rugby and the best interests of the SRU are not synonymous and that the SRU are entirely prepared to damage the clubs and the amateur game if they believe it suits themselves to do so, not least because that is what they have just done. It’s also high time the clubs themselves took back control over their own affairs.

  3. I don’t fully agree with everything being said. Look at Ollie Blyth-Lafferty as an example – he is playing regularly for Currie against grown men – Luke Pettie, Shawn Muir etc and dominating- he is also being coached and nurtured by the likes of Graeme Carson and Chris Anderson, who are 30+ and are much experienced props. Surely playing and training in these environments they can gain so much more from this kind of environment than they do playing in a futures XV or even Scotland 20’s in some cases ? Segregating these promising youngsters does nothing for their development. It’s way more physical and they have older heads to support them as they develop. They don’t have They don’t have these older heads to lean on with the likes of future XV, and even Scotland XV.

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  4. Players will be moving about everywhere after this especially in Edinburgh, you telling me boys who have been playing 1st XV and suddenly lose their starting position as S6 lads come back aren’t going to look for other clubs?

    To expect full S6 teams to just come down as they are is ridiculous from what I hear some are already pulling out before the sprint to join their old clubs.

  5. Have I missed something? What was the exit strategy signed up to in the S6 Licensing Agreements? And is there any compensation due for the clubs, players or coaches?

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  6. Before any decision is made about league structure, more details are required about assumptions being made.

    Currently, in club rugby, only Premiership teams are exempted to make payments to players to train and play for their 1st xv.

    If players have been encouraged to see Super 6 as a way into a playing career in rugby, then why would they give up that ambition to play below premiership – in fact, why would they not look beyond Scotland to pursue their ambitions now that Gav Scott, et al have decided Super rugby is not fit for purpose.

    How many ex Super 6 players would Boroughmuir and County be able add to their current amateur XVs to compete in National 1 if they are unable to remunerate them, and will it be enough for them to significantly improve on the last few seasons level of performance?

    Without having access to this information – no decision should be made about B’muir or County being artificially promoted to National 1.

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    • It’s not only players. Coaching will improve with 1st XV now being the focus of both clubs. Super series coaches will vastly improve current players.

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  7. In times such as these it is often pertinent to remember the advice of Abraham Lincoln following the end of the American Civil War.

    “Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us therefore study the incidents in this as philosophy to learn wisdom from and none of them as wrongs to be avenged.”

  8. II have to say that Toony Tombola is spot on .
    Before we plunge into another revamp and confusing alteration,let’s wait and see what all these Super Series players end up doing. Many will move away, perhaps retire with not all being better players than what Prem1 and Nat 1 have just now.
    If they do integrate across the top two divisions then that would be the one beneficial legacy from Super Series and would be a natural low cost evolution giving time to consider future league reconstruction and avoiding another red mist proposal.
    Nurture what we have and take time to consider opportunities.

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  9. Scotland desperately needs a 3rd professional side.

    I know all the arguments against it, but I cannot see how we can advance the game here at a higher level without a 3rd professional team.

    Good younger players are never getting the chance to test themselves, and sadly the Premership as it stands is no substitute for the rigours and experience of professional rugby.

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    • It’s true, but it probably needs a benefactor of some kind to get it started, as it doesn’t seem commercially viable in the medium term.

      Plonk it in Dundee so it could be called the Unicorns and sell rainbow-striped change kits. Obvs appoint me marketing and strategy director.

      • Benefactor? That would be SRU surely – Scottish Rugby’s funds combined with Government funding? I am sure it would take a significant investment of both time and money but the IRU made it work with Connacht and they seem to go well.

  10. What a great opportunity to change our outdated league system and bring in a new format that the player of today will commit to. Hopefully have more players and more teams on the pitch on a Saturday. 😊.

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  11. No option is ideal and as pointed out in the article option 5 is appalling (was this Dodson’s parting shot?). Option 6 or 7 is probably the best in the long run but it means a real mess for a season or two before things work out.

    The Super Six and its exorbitantly paid creator have a lot to answer for.

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  12. Simplest option is –
    new premiership being super 6 plus top 4
    Nat 1 – remaining 6 sides plus top 8 (4 removed)
    Nat 2 – 2 nat 1 plus 9 from nat 2 (1 removed)
    Nat 3 – 1 from nat 2 plus nat 3 10 (1 removed)

    Existing promotion/relegation happens to the new structure or single game playoffs. (Eg Berwick relegated / PL promoted – Gala / Peebles same)

    But not an evident option!

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    • Actually option 5 (reading the pdf). Don’t know who the authors club allegiances are too, but it is the most credible, particularly from a player welfare and retention basis. The premiership is a clear two tier league already in its current form. The super six is in effect a ‘top league’ above the premiership anyway.

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    • Really ???why should. My team Glasgow Hawks be relegated because of this super six SRU vanity projects especially as the club gets its talent plundered to support super six and Scotland U20’s I assume the team you support will not be affected ?

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      • Hi Andy you are correct leave the leagues alone its not the club in the Premier league fault that Super 6 did not work but its the super6 clubs fault for not looking after there club sides Ayr and Heriots have and they have had the benefit of getting back to the Premier league so it should be left as it is

    • Really ???why should. My team Glasgow Hawks be relegated because of this super six SRU vanity projects especially as the club gets its talent plundered to support super six and Scotland U20’s I assume the team you support will not be affected ?

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  13. My personal opinion would be that 6 or 7 would work best. This would give everyone a chance to fight for a place at the top table; the S6 teams reintegrating would get a shot at coming into a decent level and can see about retaining their squads.

    Gives some of the Nat 1 clubs near the top an opportunity to take a few scalps and the clubs barely holding on in the prem a chance to really prove their quality.

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  14. When the league structure reverts back to 5 x 10-teams, to ensure the strongest teams are continually in the correct league I strongly believe that in addition to the present automatic promotion & demotion for the very top & bottom teams respectively, the second bottom team in each league should play the second top team in the league below to determine who is the better, with the winner being in the higher league for the following season. Having highly competitive leagues is critical for the health of Scottish rugby, with the present only 1-up/ 1-down process severely restricting the natural competitive balancing of the leagues.

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    • Fully agree with this. An extra competitive game at the end of the season to draw in fans and keep people engaged. The current last 3-4 games of the season can be a total dead rubber for teams hovering around 7-9th and 4th-2nd. A playoff would keep both fans and players interested and generate revenue for teams.

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  15. I believe there are actually merits to the status quo. It’s not guaranteed that S6 players will go back to their clubs. Many will be wanting to play at the highest level, and a season or two in the National Leagues will not be an attractive prospect to those looking to make the most of their career. Returning to Nat 2 clubs in particular may only be chosen by those who are entering the twilight of their careers and for whom the impacts of showing loyalty will be less. If any players have genuine ambition of District or Club XV honours, or even a contract in Scotland or elsewhere, picking a non-Premiership club would be a huge risk.

    It would be unfair to bump the non-Prem S6 teams up without any guarantee that they would actually have players rejoining. Melrose are 5th and Watsonians 6th. If they don’t receive the influx of players expected, they’ll get their heads to play with in the Premiership. Would it not be better to see who actually rejoins, especially when the Southern Knights includes players from Gala, Hawick etc, and Watsonians similar with the Edinburgh teams, who may wish to return to their former clubs. For anyone who would complain about imbalance in Nat 1 if a significant number of players did return, I will remind them that Ayr achieved promotion in December of last year.

    If players returning to lower league clubs is deemed a significant concern, a rule could be implemented that any player contracted to a S6 team this season must play in Nat 1 or higher.

    However, if some S6 players do return to the likes of Stirling or Boroughmuir, that is not so different from clubs receiving investments to recruit talent in an attempt to climb the leagues as has happened in the past. It may be sticky for a season or two, but potentially a 2-team promotion and relegation between the National Leagues could see that this issue only lasts for a season.

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    • Melrose beat a full strength Selkirk in the Border League on Friday night. The premiership is not a true reflection on club rugby because of S6 and because there’s always been a poorer side that the next poorest on the league.

  16. None of the options include some of the structural benefits of the super comp. Reduced number of teams in top division (maybe top two), 8 max (expanded super 6), and no overlap with national age grade windows, u20s, so clubs with potential u20s players don’t miss out on their service from Christmas onwards.

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    • Alex it is unwise to design anything around the needs of the few to the detriment of the many. If Super Series taught us anything, it is that.

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      • Why not for top two or three divisions? competing demands always have a negative impact on clubs, a more compartmentalised season maybe better. League rugby finished by six nations, cross board matches in six nations (club dependent), post six nations cup and sevens with district rugby for performance pathway.

    • an 8 team premiership might be worth considering, but not immediately. The immediate issue is trying to square the circle of the various (inevitably) conflciting needs

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  17. The 12 team National 1 league seems the fairest option. That or the 14 team premiership. Least displacement and no reason for current Prem/Nat 1 clubs to be disgruntled. However I’m disappointed not to see them propose the premiership return to 12 teams for 25/26 season, this would leave only 3 needing relegated from the 14 team prem instead of 5.

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    • My question would be is this a divorce of the club game from the pathway for better players. I suspect it absolutely is.
      Let’s see the intention and plan for the A games. Let’s see how they intend to fill squads
      I’m not convinced there’s actually a full plan in place and until it is how can you get the club part appropriately joined, if indeed that’s the intention.
      When the announcement to end s6 was made a detailed explanation of how who and when A games would be played was needed.
      As it stands all we have is the past experience of them not getting off the ground as they had no opposition and not enough of the appropriate players
      It’s a mess

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