National One clubs request a 12-month postponement of Super 6

Uncertainty over impact on the rest of the club game is causing major concern

Mark Dodson Super 6
Scottish Rugby CEO Mark Dodson launched Super 6 with players from each of the chosen clubs back in April, but there is still a worrying lack of clarity on how the new league will impact the rest of the domestic game ***Image: © Craig Watson -***

A REQUEST has been received by the SRU Council from the clubs in National League Division One calling for a 12-month postponement in the implementation of Super 6.

It was put in front of a joint meeting of the SRU Board and Council by National One Council representative Colin Rigby last week, following a discussion at the league’s forum meeting on 17th October, and has now been forwarded to the Standing Committee on Governance, chaired by Gavin McColl QC, which has been charged [after a successful motion from the clubs at August’s AGM] with reviewing league structure and coming up with a workable solution to the current stalemate.

Super 6 is supposed to launch next season but the six participating clubs – Ayr, Boroughmuir, Heriot’s, Melrose, Stirling County and Watsonians – have yet to sign contracts with the SRU. They do, however, continue to present a united front on the merits of this initiative and have been working hard in recent weeks to persuade sceptics to get on board.

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A rationale for the National One request was provided, and it is scathing in its assessment of the SRU’s handling of the Super 6 project  –

The imposition of Agenda 3 including Super 6 by the Scottish Rugby Union on its member clubs at the 2017 SRU AGM, without proper prior consultation nor approval from the stakeholders, has led to a current situation which we, the National One clubs, deem to be unacceptable.

Players currently playing in SRU administered competitions are unaware of what it is that they are playing for, which destroys the trust between our most important constituents, the players, and those driving the changes that are causing this impasse.

This failure of Governance was recognised by the Scottish Rugby Union at its 2018 AGM when a full governance and structure review was commissioned by then President Rob Flockhart, to be led by Gavin McColl QC. Gavin McColl has since indicated that this review process is likely to take at least two years to conclude and be implemented.

At present, and unless otherwise altered by the clubs at an SGM, a back-stop position of the league competitions continuing in their current form and with promotion and relegation as per past seasons being retained has been communicated to the clubs by the SRU.

However, it has also been stated that the creation of a new league, the Super 6, within the current domestic league structure will go ahead as planned for next season. This decision by the Scottish Rugby Union to proceed with Super 6 regardless, with no impact assessment having been carried out on what the consequences of doing so may be and before the conclusion of the Governance review that the SRU themselves have commissioned, is, in our view, a dereliction of their duty to their stakeholders and puts the future health of Scottish club rugby in unnecessary jeopardy.

Considering [that] the full details of the Super 6 competition itself have still not been concluded, even to the satisfaction of those awarded the franchises, we believe that the only responsible course of action for the Scottish Rugby Union to take at this stage is to postpone Super 6 for a minimum of one season.

This will therefore provide a renewed back-stop position that the leagues will continue as is for a minimum of one more season allowing time for the Gavin McColl governance review to be concluded and for any changes to the domestic league structure to be debated and approved by the member clubs before any impact of Super 6 is felt.

Most importantly, this will give all clubs and players clarity on what it is that they are playing for this season even though this retrospective change is not in line with what many clubs expectations were prior to the season commencing. This provides a far more reasonable solution than having Super 6 imposed and the Club XVs of Super 6 being retained in the Premiership.

Unless, of course, various points with regards to Super 6 can be clarified and approved by way of an SGM vote to the satisfaction of the member clubs ahead of next season, which would allow Super 6 to proceed.

For and on behalf of the National 1 Clubs.

Colin Rigby
National 1 Council Representative

The Offside Line understands that a number of clubs in National League Two and Three are confident of getting support from their forum to make a similar request, while the ‘forgotten four’ current Premiership clubs not involved in Super 6 are also supportive of the move.

The National One forum meeting on 17th October also discussed, specifically, that thorny issue of where the ‘Club XVs’ of Super 6 teams should play, and the consensus was that these teams should compete in the national reserve leagues – rather than in National One or the Premiership, which are the preferred options of the SRU and the Super 6 clubs. The mood music at the National Two and Three forum meeting the night before was similar.

The clubs will give their verdict on that question by Wednesday, which is the deadline for returning the league structure questionnaire which was issued at the end of September on behalf of the Council Standing Committee on Governance, to aid that group’s review.

Well done, Mr Dodson, you got your six … but the hard work starts now

About David Barnes 4012 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.


  1. Ray B,

    Ref the SRU AGM, proposals before committee very often go through nem con, i.e. with no dissenting voice, aka unanimously. The proponents of Super 6 are entitled to the view that the proposal was carried nem com, as nobody jumped up and demanded a vote, a commission or whatever.

    Was it the right way to do it? No, of course not. The eminence grise at Murrayfield, having worked hard behind the arras to block the league change proposal in, IRRC, 2010, and then worked hard to put exactly the same proposal through a year later, knows full well what is required to get a majority at an AGM. The way Super 6 was done was an attempt to get it through on the bounce without the torturous hard work.

    Yes, it would have been better to prepare and circulate a paper in advance and debate it at endless roadshows, try to get some consensus among the clubs. But the bottom line is that, a couple of years on, the N1 clubs would still have opposed it just as vigorously, as they did with the previous league changes. Of course they were ultimately out-voted by quite a large margin last time, which will no doubt happen again if anyone can be bothered putting in a couple of years work to build the case.

    What irks me in all this is that we once again have the tail wagging the dog, a coterie of National clubs blocking the progress that the high performance department, pro coaches and a majority of Premier clubs want and Scottish rugby arguably needs.

    I don’t see a lot of ‘anger’ among the clubs outside of N1 and N2, there is a general understanding that something needs to be done to close the gap in playing standards between the Premier and the Pro game and that something is the Super 6, for want of a better idea.

  2. Fascinating to hear R Cummings state that Super 6 “was proposed to and agreed by the SRU AGM. An overwhelming majority of clubs agreed to it, that is how democracy works.”

    It was not.
    We simply had a presentation from Mark Dodson.
    No vote was ever taken.

    The presentation came a short time after the Clubs had voted down an amendment which would have given the Board the power to make any changes they wished to league structures.
    That was democracy, as was this year’s AGM which voted with only one dissenter to give the Clubs the explicit right to decide on league structure, including where S6 2nd teams play.

    Nat 1 and any other clubs are simply exercising their democratic right.

    Turning to the Bear’s note,I agree wholeheartedly we need to so something more radical with the season to suit current demographics.

    This I believe would be much better done by suspending S6 until proper consideration has taken place. There is time to do so by the 2019 AGM to allow whatever emerges to be implemented for the 2020-21 season.

  3. Iain,

    I would have to take issue with the suggestion that clubs are not acutely aware of, and pro-actively addressing the problem of falling player numbers.

    To me, the critical factor is Scottish Rugby’s lack of support for, and financial investment in the game’s grass roots.

    Your six suggestions for growing the game are all eminently sensible — but they are in no way related to, or dependent upon Super-6.

    With a current active playing base of only around 3500 male adults the Scottish game simply cannot sustain the proposed three tier Super-6 structure — without the very real danger of us ending up with an American Football type model of college football and professional football — and nothing in between.

    The thorny question of pro-squad back-up must, therefore, of necessity, be addressed within the aegis of an integrated game.

    Change is indubitably needed — but it must be the right change — carefully considered and tested — and not something scribbled on the back of a fag packet in a Tokyo hotel room by a couple of guys with no real appreciation for the club game — nor (importantly) a legitimate mandate to interfere in it.

    When Super-6 first surfaced I empathised when you said to ‘Scotland on Sunday’ : ‘Heriots are not against these changes, but we have to protect the 125 year history of the club and that legacy must be left standing long after these changes’ — a sentiment which you can now, hopefully, accept from the myriad of good club men up and down the country who genuinely feel their clubs under threat.

    Ian Barnes

  4. Super 6 would not have been my personal choice of another tier of rugby but we did need one. As I’ve said before this was the choice of the Premiership clubs.
    For those of you who know me well my passion is for club rugby to be a game for all. Our adult male game is dying on its feet and the clubs are doing nothing about addressing the situation.
    In reality what the hell does it matter what league you’re in and what league the Super 6 second teams are in. Carry on like this and we won’t have a game. Clubs cannot get a second xv out and they are worried what league they will be in next season! This is all about self interest which is continuing to destroy our game at all levels.
    I totally agree the situation is not ideal at the moment but this is one year in over a 100 years.
    Stop worrying about what league your club will be in next season and instead work together in getting more people playing the game.

    1/ shorter season Sept – March, no exceptions
    2/ regional leagues run by the clubs
    3/ no promotion or relegation for 5 years
    4/ trust between clubs to be brought back into the game
    5/ a game for all, fun, friendship, respect and trust.
    6/ ambition of all clubs to produce another 1/2 teams in their club

    I am writing this not as a member of a Super 6 club but as someone who sees our great game dying and the clubs need to change. Iain Milne

    • Agree Iain, the narrow self-interest being displayed by the National 1 forum is pretty disappointing.

      What is their problem? 8 of the 12 will be promoted from Nat 1 to the first-tier Championship, the remaining 4 will remain in National 1, what’s not to like?

      What heavy weather they are making of the six residual ‘Club XVs’ playing in National 1! Do they think Heriots, Melrose, Watsonians etc won’t be up to fielding a competitive amateur 15? Actually it’s the reverse, the self-interested concern is that these Club XVs may be rather good and give N1 teams a bit of a drubbing. Hence the self-interested drive to shove them off to the Reserve leagues.

      If we want to consider these Club XVs as 2nd XVs, which they won’t be, then it is normal that the 2nds generally play 2 leagues below the 1sts = National 1! As they won’t actually be 2nd XVs, they won’t be eligible to compete in the Reserve leagues anyway.

      Your shorter season makes a lot of sense, after the league change in 2011, G Ireland stated that 10-team leagues would henceforth be the norm. It didn’t take two season before the National clubs were back demanding 12-team leagues and a longer playing season, so (never said of course) they could get more home games to pay their players. With 12 team leagues, you are going to have to play from August to well after Easter, which just gets players voting with their feet and dropping out.

      The National clubs and hitherto Premier 2 and 3 have not come up with one practical, useful proposal regarding the leagues in all the many years I have been observing Scottish rugby and their latest gambit is just one more bit of self-serving luddite froth. Like you, I am not a great fan of the Super 6 concept, would have preferred Pro A teams. It is nonetheless a step forward and it is really galling to once again have sensible progress blocked by clubs 11-22 and maybe 11-46, getting themselves all in a lather because the Club XVs will be entered at a sensible and obvious point in the leagues.

      Alas, was always thus with these guys, who seem to revel in being a roadblock to progress.

      • Wow. What an ignorant statement from Mr Cummings. Hard to know where to begin.

        So national league clubs are acting only in their own self interest when they show concern with a policy which 14 months after it was announced is still not properly thought out? If anything, suggesting that more time is taken to actually figure it out is about the most sensible thing that has been put forward about Super 6 that I have heard.

        And to address Iain’s point, you first need to ask why players are dropping out of the game. To imply that it’s the fault of the dedicated volunteers up and down the country for not trying hard enough is about the most insulting thing I have heard and disappointing to hear from such a respected figure. Do you not think that clubs are trying to solve the numbers issue? Very difficult when the powers that be are working against them with their ignorant policies Iain. This is the fundamental issue with placing Super 6 club teams in the National Leagues, it will make it harder for clubs to hold onto and grow their playing numbers. Don’t you get that?

  5. Delighted to hear this. It is appalling that we’ve got to this stage of the season and clubs don’t know what could happen. I feel most for Accies who went into this season planning fir next, only for the SRU to move the goalposts. Just because they weren’t getting their own way. Pathetic behaviour I would chastise my children about.

    • Ray B’s case is not strengthened by branding those who express alternative views – knowledgeable ones in this case – as ‘ignorant’ and ‘insulting’. Scottish rugby neither needs nor benefits from that kind of playground rhetoric.

      There are a number of holes in the case that Ni and Ray B are making. To pick just the main ones:

      1) The Super 6 plan was not ‘imposed’ by the SRU – it was proposed to and agreed by the SRU AGM. An overwhelming majority of clubs agreed to it, that is how democracy works.

      2) The argument that it is ‘still not properly thought out’ is trying to make something out of not very much. The Super 6 know the player numbers, money, competition structure, cross-border competition, rules, etc., there are some final details to be fine-tuned but that’s it. The league clubs know full well how promotion and relegation will work, where the S6 Club XVs will fit in and that paying players is now forbidden. Which bit or bits are ‘not properly thought out’?

      3) Why should placing the 6 residual Club XVs in the leagues make it ‘harder for clubs to hold onto and grow their playing numbers’? The idea being put about is that some players may leave their club to play for the Heriots, Ayr etc amateur clubs, in order to catch the eye of the Super 6 coaches. It sounds a rather far-fetched fear to me. What is far more likely is that the S6 clubs will scout talent across all clubs, they will need to to maintain playing squads of 30+. Ergo, there won’t be any great benefit moving to Watsonians, Melrose etc., especially now that player payments will be discontinued.

      The bottom line is that the National 1 clubs don’t really want a Super 6 at all, as it alters the status quo and will attract the better players and they don’t really want amateur status either, as most of them pay some players at the moment.

      If they manage to kill-off the Super 6, as looks to be the intention, well the way will be clear to revert to Dodson’s Plan A of Pro A U23 teams, utilising Pro players, the Stage 3 Academy boys and some call-ups from the clubs, as the English, Irish and Welsh are all now doing. That would be simpler and cleaner than a long drawn out contrived kerfuffle orchestrated by the N1 clubs.

      • Mr Cummings, we can certainly agree that there were better options that have been ignored.

        But as far as your 3 points go. Point 1 is factually incorrect. Democracy was bypassed and the Board imposed it. There was no vote. Now that you know that, perhaps you can reflect on your own thoughts on these matters?

        Point 2, if it were properly thought out, the 6 franchisees would have signed their contracts by now. They have not. Why do you think that is?

        Point 3. It is not that the Super 6 will necessarily go out and actively recruit players, it is that these 6 clubs with their 6 figure investment from the governing body will prove an inevitable draw on talent within a region at all ages. If that draw isn’t mitigated to some extent, then it poses a real risk to the future of the club and undermines a nearby club’s ability to grow the game.

      • Point 1 – this is simply wrong. There was no vote, no consultation, Super 6 was imposed.

        Perhaps now that you know this you will begin to understand why there is so much anger around how this whole thing has been handled? It’s not the clubs fault. These changes will have a massive impact on our game and the ability of clubs to address the issues that Iain Milne has highlighted.

        One thing we can agree on is that there was a better way of doing this. Perhaps had there been a consultation on this, we wouldn’t have ended up where we are.

  6. Have Currie replaced Heriot’s in the Super Six? That bit of news has crept under the radar or is Mr Barnes in the know?

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