MARK DODSON hopes that Scottish clubs and schools will consider a move to summer rugby – either on a one-off basis or permanently – as the grassroots game looks to bounce back after its long Covid lay-off.
A major drop-off in participation levels – in terms of both players and volunteers – is one of the biggest threats facing the grassroots game as a consequence of the pandemic, and the longer the game is in cold storage the more pressing that issue becomes, so Dodson is keen to see competitive rugby played (as soon as it is safe to do so) before the usual season start date in late August.
“We want to get all rugby started as soon as we possibly can, and we have to think about the summer in that context,” he said. “If we can get people playing and training, get Super6 restarted, then those are things we’ll certainly look at.
“The issue for us is doing it safely. What’s served us well is the fact we’ve had a very clear plan and it’s worked to date. We’ve kept as many people as we can secure and we’re working with the Government to be as liberal but as safe as we possibly can. We’ll continue to do that.
“Are we ready? Yes. Would we want to start back as soon as we safely and possibly could? Yes. Rugby Development have got several plans ready to go as soon as we get the green light.”
Shifting Super6 away from the traditional winter window has always been part of the plan, but finding a consensus to move the club and school season is a different proposition altogether.
Dodson has had his fingers burned in the past when taking a heavy-handed approach to dealing with the club game, so he was at pains to keep in line with the more collaborative approach championed by outgoing Director of Rugby Development Sheila Begbie in recent years.
“The clubs decide when they want to play, but for me, summer rugby in a country like Scotland has to have some merit,” he said. “If you think about what we face in December, January and February, it’s not the easiest game to continue through.
“What we’re saying to Council and to our clubs is that we’ve gone through this enormous shock, which has allowed us to look at how the game is played [and] when the game is played. We’ll support you in the timeframes in which you want to play the game.
“I will be very light-touch on that,” he added. “I don’t think it’s something we should necessarily be prescriptive about. If playing between August and April works or if you want to turn the season on its head and play through the summer, I have no problem with that at all.
“The more chance you’ve got of kids playing the game in decent conditions, being able to enjoy throwing a ball about, being able to train in the light and good weather with pitches in good shape … that’s something we should perhaps consider.
“I’m very happy for it to stay as it is, but I’d be very open-minded to a move.”