MacColl report and recommendations issued to clubs

Changes in league structure to be ratified at a Special General Meeting of the clubs which will take place towards end of March

Currie v Glasgow Hawks
Image: ©Craig Watson -

THE report and recommendations from the review conducted by the Scottish Rugby Council’s Standing Committee on Governance into player payment in the domestic game, league placement of the ‘Club XVs’ of Super 6 license holders and the general league and season structure moving forward, has been issued to all SRU member clubs and posted on the SRU’s website: CLICK HERE.

As reported by The Offside Line on 22nd January, the Standing Committee (which is independently chaired by Gavin MacColl QC) has made the following recommendations –

  • Player payment, apart from reasonable expenses and incidental benefits, to be prohibited at all levels of club rugby below the Championship/Premiership.
  • The ‘Club XVs’ of Super 6 license holders to initially be placed in National League One from the start of next season [2019-20], with one promotion place into the Championship/Premiership at the end of each campaign (for at least the next two seasons).
  • The creation of a league structure comprising of a 10 team Premiership and three 12 team National Leagues to remain in place for season 2019/2020 and season 2020-2021.

The recommendations have been accepted by both the Scottish Rugby Council and the Scottish Rugby Board. As the second and third of these recommendations require a material change to the league structure, a general meeting of the member clubs is required to ratify their implementation.

The Council will now proceed to requisition an SGM on those specific recommendations, in accordance with the Union’s Bye-Laws, with more detailed information on the exact date and location of that SGM (together with the wording of the SGM Motion and associated Explanatory Notes) to be issued after the Council’s next meeting on 28th February 2019.

It is anticipated that the SGM will take place around the end of March 2019 (in accordance with the timelines previously articulated to clubs in September 2018), and will most likely take place on the evening of Friday 22nd March at Murrayfield before Edinburgh’s Guinness PRO14 clash against Leinster.

A more detailed overview of the recommendations is provided below.


  • A general prohibition on player payment at all levels of the domestic game apart from Super 6 and the Championship/Premiership, to be enforced from the start of the 2020-21
  • Reasonably incurred expenses and incidental benefits (such as medical/physiotherapy services or food and drink during/after matches/training) will be allowed.
  • Clubs are entitled to pay individuals to act as coaches. The general prohibition does not preclude individuals who are paid to act as coaches from playing matches for or training with their clubs.
  • Prior to the end of the 2020-21 season, the issue of the exemption of Premiership clubs from the general prohibition on payments should be reviewed (that review to include the desirability of continuing the exemption and the separate issue of whether a cap on the level of any permissible payments should be introduced).
  • The Standing Committee has deliberately not made recommendations as to the manner in which these recommendations (if accepted) should be policed or audited, as it does not consider this to be a matter within the scope of the task remitted to the Committee.

In explaining the logic behind these recommendations, the Standing Committee stated –

The survey conducted in relation to this issue has disclosed that there is a clear majority in favour of a significant restriction in player payment within the domestic game. There is plainly a genuine and significant will on the part of the clubs as a whole to restrict the scope for player payments to be made and for funding (which could be used for other purposes, including player welfare) to be diverted into payments.

The survey indicated the following views in relation to permitting player payment:

(a)  It should be permitted in the Premiership (or successor competition at the level immediately below the Super 6). This view was held by a relatively narrow majority of clubs (55%). The majority in favour of such payment being allowed in the Premiership was found in responses from both National League (57%) and Regional League (53%) clubs.

(b)  There were significant majorities that player payment should not be allowedin all lower leagues (62% against payment in National 1, 77% against payment in National 2, 78% against payment in National 3, 83% against payment in Regional 1 and 84% against payment in other regional competitions).

(c)  Clubs were also clearly in favour (82%) of permitting clubs to pay players for undertaking non-playing roles. This included the role of player-coach, albeit by a slightly narrower majority (78%).

(d) Clubs were again clearly in favour of permitting the payment of expenses (94%).

The document containing a full analysis of the club survey responses can be found HERE.

Placement of Super 6 “Club XVs”

  • The “Club XVs” of Scottish rugby clubs holding a Super 6 franchise should, in the season in which the Super 6 league commences (2019-2020) play in National 1.
  • In seasons 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, one club should be relegated from the Premiership (or successor league) to National 1 and one club should be promoted from National 1 to the Premiership.
  • National 1 sides will be promoted into the Premiership (or successor league) in accordance with their league positions at the end of season 2018-2019, so as to populate the Premiership with the requisite number of teams. For the avoidance of doubt, there will be no relegation from the Premiership at the end of season 2018-2019. 
  • Relegation will take place from National 1 in accordance with the presently operating competition rules.
  • Promotion and relegation will take place from National 2 and all lower leagues in accordance with the presently operating competition rules.

The Standing Committee explained –

The 2018 AGM indicated that the issue of the placement of the Club XVs of clubs which have acquired Super 6 franchises is a source of particular (and understandable) concern to a wide range of Scottish rugby clubs. It is against that background that the Standing Committee has been tasked (by the AGM) with making recommendations in relation to the placing of those Club XVs within the league structure. However, it is important to note that the Standing Committee does not have any remit in relation to the implementation of Super 6 itself – this is a matter being dealt with by others. In particular, it is not a matter for the Standing Committee to make any recommendation as to the desirability or otherwise of a delay in the commencement of Super 6. On that basis, the recommendations are made on the basis that Super 6 will commence in season 2019/2020.

Unlike the position in relation to player payments, there is no overall consensus as to where the Club XVs of Super 6 franchise holding clubs should play. In these circumstances, the Standing Committee has sought to produce recommendations which strike a practical and pragmatic balance, taking into account all of the representations that have been made to us (both by way of survey returns and other communications). The Standing Committee acknowledges that, when dealing with a matter that is contentious, it is inevitable that not all interested parties will be happy with the outcome.

Views from maintaining the status quo (with the Club XVs playing in the Premiership), through the Clubs XVs being required to play in all of the National Leagues to the Club XVs being placed within reserve leagues all had their supporters. In light of this disparity of view, the Standing Committee has not been able to discern any general consensus.

The Standing Committee has, in the foregoing circumstances, sought to strike a balance between the various views that have been expressed. The Standing Committee has, in particular, taken into account the general view that the status quo (ie Club XVs playing the Premiership) does not reflect either the equities of the situation – where it would be thought that clubs who have had the benefit of a Super 6 franchise should not also be permitted to retain the benefits of playing in the Premiership – or the practicalities – the movement of players between teams consequent upon Super 6 will mean that it would not be appropriate for Club XVs to play at the Premiership level but, equally, the Club XVs should not play at too low a level (where there would be regular mismatches).

The Standing Committee has also taken into account representations made by the SRU’s Chief Medical Officer in relation to the need to take steps to ensure that players play at appropriate levels, where mismatches (and the consequent risk of injury) are avoided (where possible). In the view of the Standing Committee, this is a factor which points squarely away from placing Club XVs in reserve leagues.

The proposed restriction of promotion and relegation between the Premiership and National 1 to one team in each of the next two seasons is made with a view to providing a period within which the new Super 6 and Club XV structure can become embedded, without too great a fluctuation in the compositions of the leagues.

Domestic League Structures

  • A league structure comprising a 10 team Premiership and three 12 team National Leagues should remain in place for season 2019-2020 and season 2020-2021.
  • This position should be revisited for the commencement of season 2021-2022.

The Standing Committee explained that –

The Standing Committee acknowledges that its recommendation as to the placement of the Club XVs of clubs with a Super 6 franchise will inevitably give rise to a significant degree of change in the present leagues. This is, in our view, a significant background factor which points away from further alterations to the number of clubs in different leagues at the present time.

By retaining the present league structures (in terms of a 10 team Premiership and three 12 team National Leagues) for a period at least until the commencement of season 2021-2022, this allows a further period for the changes made to become embedded without facing, at the same time, the challenge of revisiting the league structures. This is of some importance given that, amongst other matters, there were clear concerns that moving to any different structure may give rise to very significant disruption.

The Standing Committee is also aware that significant work is being done by other SRU bodies which is likely to impact upon desirable future league structures – it would be beneficial for this to be available to inform any additional changes in the future.

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About David Barnes 4026 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.