THE Scottish club rugby’s senior men’s season has been declared null and void as a result of the coronavirus shutdown, meaning that there will be no promotion or relegation between leagues ahead of the 2020-21 season, whenever that is able to get under way.
This news will come as a major blow to Biggar, the runaway leaders of National League One, who had already secured enough league points for promotion into the Premiership, and as a huge relief to Dundee High at the other end of the same table given that they had already been condemned to relegation.
Edinburgh Accies, who were hanging on precariously at the bottom of the Premiership, and who almost certainly needed two wins from their last two games in hand against the top sides in the league (Marr and Currie Chieftains) to have any chance of avoiding the drop, will also feel they have dodged a bullet.
The decision to declare the season null and void was reached following a consultation process involving the participating clubs, the Championship and Competition Committee members and Scottish Rugby’s own Rugby Development Department.
Five possible scenarios were presented, with around half of clubs favouring the null and void option. The remaining clubs were split between the other four options. The second most favoured option – finishing the season based on the league positions at the time of shutdown – received the support of around a quarter of clubs.
The other options were to take an average of points over the season and promote and relegate based on this outcome, to count earlier fixtures as double-headers, or to award two points to each team for all outstanding fixtures.
Further to the club consultation, the declaration of a null and void season was recommended by the Convenor of the Championship Committee, the Reserve League Committee Chair and the Chair of the Women’s Competition Committee. Their recommendation was supported by Sheila Begbie, Scottish Rugby’s Director of Rugby Development.
A paper summarising the consultation process, the possible season-ending options and containing a recommendation from Championship Convenor, the Reserve League Chair and the Women’s Competition Chair was provided to Scottish Rugby Council for consideration and feedback.
The Council’s endorsement of the proposal was then ratified by the Scottish Rugby Board in its role to oversee the best interests of the game, with authority then granted to the Championship Committee to bring the recommendation into force.
“It was clear from the outset that, in terms of the consequential impact on the various leagues in terms of promotion/relegation there would be no ‘right’ solution, particularly once it was clear that our preferred option of completing the season would no longer be possible,” said Scottish Rugby President Dee Bradbury.
“Every solution we looked at was likely to be problematic in some way – none was likely to be supported by everyone. It was therefore considered essential that the full range of options were explored, each potential option was sense checked and that, as far as possible, a broad consensus was reached across the game as to the most appropriate outcome.
“We fully accept some clubs will be disappointed with this decision and share their frustration that, for wider societal reasons beyond our control, their hard work to push for success this season hasn’t yielded the rewards they deserve.”
Begbie added: “It was important we went through a thorough process to canvass opinion and offer a range of options for how the season could be concluded.
“I would like to thank all the clubs that contributed to this process and for their valuable input. I know the Competitions Committees and Convenors have put in a huge amount of time to ensure there was a credible outcome for every club, and while there are obviously clubs who will be disappointed, I believe this is a fair solution for everyone in these unprecedented circumstances.”
Dougie Belmore, Championship Committee Convenor, said: “Extensive discussion and consultation has taken place with the various Championship and Competition Committee members, together with representatives from a wide range of Clubs at all levels of the game. Following this exercise, the clear agreed position is that, due to the unprecedented events currently unfolding globally, Season 2019/20 should be declared null and void. A number of alternative options have been explored in detail, with the majority of Clubs supporting this outcome.”
Scottish Rugby concluded its announcement by saying that it “would like to thank everyone who contributed to this extensive and important process at such a difficult time and thanks all clubs for their valuable insight and understanding in the conclusion of the 2019/20 season”.