London Scottish and SRU kiss and make up

Sean Lineen will oversee players seconded to London Scottish as part of revised agreement with SRU

LONDON SCOTTISH have managed to salvage a slimmed down version of the partnership agreement with the Scottish Rugby Union which had seemed to be dead and buried after an unseemly spat last month – but only after a humiliating public climb down over comments made in the press.

The revised player development programme will see a maximum of eight players seconded from Scotland to the Championship club under the guidance of the SRU’s head of age-grade rugby, Sean Lineen.

A statement from the governing body stated that –

“The arrangements in place since January this year will now operate on a more modest and achievable scale better suited to the support available from London Scottish and will build on the success of the trial last season.”

The initial plan was apparently meant to involve fourteen players being sent down to Richmond, with that number then reduced to nine, before the whole deal was called off amid accusation and counter-accusation that each party had failed to act in good faith.

In an incendiary statement issued on 30th May, Sir David Reid, chairman of London Scottish, stated –

“The SRU can have no concerns whatsoever about our finances. The SRU Board has known all along that our model, as for most Championship clubs, requires investors to step up and support the operational costs of running the club and since 2008 our great group of over 140 investors has contributed over £5m to the cause. They will be bridging the gap as usual next season, though we have been closing the gap and need to raise much raise less than in previous years.”

“Remember, this partnership was the SRU’s idea in the first place, and they offered to second 14 players as well as coaching and support staff. We therefore budgeted accordingly to fund fewer players and instead to cover the extra costs of accommodation and better training facilities. When, only last month, the SRU revised the offer to only ten players, and none of them senior players, London Scottish had to find extra players at extra cost. With pre-season a few weeks away, our budget and planning were suddenly blown off course.”

“We therefore questioned the support costs we were due to cover, and sought to negotiate this point. However we agreed last week to find the additional funds, only to be told the SRU felt they could not justify their own expenditure on the project.”

Reid’s tone was very different at lunchtime today (16th June), when it was announced that all we had really witnessed was a mere lovers’ tiff –

“We fully recognise that the concerns expressed by Scottish Rugby’s Board over the financial commitment and infrastructure needed from London Scottish under the previous arrangements were entirely legitimate. London Scottish will now take full financial responsibility for its areas identified in the partnership, which are designed to enhance the performance environment in which London Scottish players can train and prepare.”

For club president Rod Lynch, the humble pie must have been even harder to swallow. In yesterday’s statement he said –

 “We regret that our recent statements and media coverage of them may have cast a cloud over such an exciting opportunity and are grateful that Scottish Rugby was still willing to continue a dialogue with us. We are now looking to move this mutually beneficial opportunity forward and will provide young players with exposure to Championship rugby and its associated benefits.

“Championship Rugby is a challenging environment commercially and we acknowledge that the concerns Scottish Rugby’s Board voiced were valid. I am delighted we have now been able to address these.”

Mark Dodson, chief executive of Scottish Rugby, could barely hide his sense of satisfaction at the way things have panned out. He said –

“We see this as a 12-month relationship at this time. We want to move this initiative forward to continue to give identified Scottish players the opportunity to develop into international players of the future.

“We had to satisfy ourselves that the club could deliver a performance environment suitable to enable talented young players to develop, before we committed further. We are pleased that the club has addressed our concerns and are now satisfied that the reduced scale of the programme matches the support the club can provide.”

About David Barnes 3991 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.