Border League clubs pursue devolved strategy to tackle local challenges

The Border League has secured a five-figure sponsorship deal running over two years

Shawn Muir carries the ball forThe South against Edinburgh last weekend. Image: John Durham
Shawn Muir carries the ball forThe South against Edinburgh last weekend. Image: John Durham

THE BORDER LEAGUE CLUBS have taken a further step towards devolution within the Scottish Rugby Union by setting up an officially recognised affiliate body – the Scottish Borders District Union (SBDU) – with the primary purpose of “providing enhanced support for all rugby sectors within the region”.

The move germinated back in November 2022, when the Border League Committee (BLC) agreed to the concept of a new Scottish Border rugby entity, which would have the potential to represent the unified views of the clubs involved.

The vision and proposed structure of the new entity was presented through a consultation process with all rugby sectors, while Aberdein Considine solicitors were appointed last July to consult with the Scottish Rugby Union regarding the Articles of Association required for SBDU to be awarded ‘Affiliate Body’ status, which was granted at a meeting of the national governing body’s Club Rugby Board earlier this month.

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“The main objectives of SBDU are to provide a unified voice, direction and support for all rugby sectors within the region,” said a statement from the BLC. “It will also seek to attract new partners and funding  to support new initiatives which help to create positive change, together with generating social and economic benefits for all Scottish Border communities.”

This push towards a localised strategy to tackle the challenges Borders rugby faces has already been expressed through six of the seven senior Scottish Borders clubs pulling out of the National Cup competition in order to re-instate a six-match, Border League tournament (champions Hawick chose to defend their title and face a home tie against Currie Chieftains at the semi-final stage in a fortnight’s time).

This move has been endorsed by a significant sponsorship deal for the Border League.

“The Borders Solicitors Property Group – SPC Borders – is delighted to announce a five-figure sponsorship deal with the Border League covering the next two seasons,” said David Kilshaw, Chair of SPC Borders.

“As the professional code pulls in more and more of the funds coming into the sport, grassroots initiatives at club level are vital for developing the sport at this level.

“The Border League Working Group are to be congratulated on rejuvenating an inter club competition which has been the beating heart of rugby in the Borders for generations of rugby players, many of whom have gone on to wear the silver thistle with pride.

“Founded in 1990, and with solicitor estate agencies spread throughout the Borders, we are looking forward to putting something back into the communities that have faithfully supported our members over the last 25 years.”

The senior Border clubs also withdrew from the National 2nd XV leagues in an attempt to revive the Border Junior League this season. This decision was “based on the amount of National League games being cancelled due to clubs not being able to field a team and the cost of transport for the clubs taking part”. Despite less travel and more local derbies, there has been several matches postponed or cancelled with Selkirk A, Gala A and Peebles Reds all failing to raise teams at various points over the season.

“SBDU will look to review this and other difficult issues, which need to be addressed, if Scottish Borders rugby is to remain an integral part of communities in the region,” said the statement.

South of Scotland, representing the Borders Region, defeated Edinburgh in their opening game of the revived Inter-District Championship last weekend, and face Glasgow & The West in round two at Poynder Park tomorrow [Saturday], before finishing the campaign against Caledonia Reds Canal Park in Inverness next weekend.

“The re-introduction of the Inter-District Championship [IDC] in 2022-23 created a new objective for club players and it has proven to be popular with the supporters of Border clubs,” said the statement. “The BLC appreciate the South jersey sponsorship support provided by Richie Gray and GSI Performance.”

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About David Barnes 3891 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he 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. This is nonsense , the Borders clubs have proven to their cost time and time again that they only care about themselves. Their insular attitudes cost them the Border Reivers and were well on the way to working against the Southern Knights before the SRU got there before them. The decision for Borders 2xv club sides to come out of the National reserve leagues has been a very predictable failure with a huge number of cancellations leading to a worthless cup competition in particular. The decision to come out of the National leagues simply showed that the Borders clubs had lost the appetite to invest in 2xv rugby. The standard of these National leagues was good and unfortunately the main clubs responsible for calling off national league fixtures were the Borders clubs themselves. There would have been much more benefit for the clubs to stay in the National 2xv league and try and maintain a standard rather than simply give up. The standard of 2xv rugby that has been played this year in the Borders is in general very poor. Only Hawick have managed to get through the season without cancelling due to shortage of players and this was even with the strategy of being able to play midweek games which was supposed to help with player numbers. No doubt the same “brains” that dreamt up the ridiculous idea to pull out of the National Leagues are now to be entrusted with this financial investment …. how reassuring…
    The Border League proper has also been devalued again at the business end because of the inexplicable clash with the Inter District games. Melrose in particular have benefitted from this clash and have faced essentially a Kelso 2xv last week and a Hawick 2xv today because Hawick have 10 players involved with the South tomorrow. The outcome of this clash is going to mean that Melrose could end up winning the Border League primarily because of poor scheduling , this is not a merit based outcome and unfair on the other Border clubs. I don’t really feel the structure of this years Border League is cause for celebration at all on this basis.
    The Borders clubs have shown time and time again that they don’t have a clue and only have their own interests at heart , quite how a financial investment is going to improve this position is very optimistic. I have seen first hand the mentality of some of those still inexplicably in decision making positions in the Borders and I would not trust them to run a raffle. Yet again the Borders attempting to set themselves apart , same divisive attitudes year after year and no wonder the Borders is viewed with such derision in wider rugby circles. It will take more than a bit of money to sort out the mess that Borders rugby has descended into.

    • A ridiculous and ill informed reply from someone who supports a magpie club that inherits players developed elsewhere and couldn’t attract more than a sprinkling of support for their Super 6 franchise. It must hurt to see another region taking proactive steps to improve their lot when you are wallowing in a paralysis of apathy yourself as evidenced by the lack of support of the Edinburgh district last week.

      • Angry Gala2 and Angry Heriots 1 .
        They’re made for each other
        What a sad life they lead .
        Imagine how many pals they DONT have .

    • Nailsman , agree with the majority of ure comments although I notice that Hawick 2nds managed to stuff Melrose 1sts last night however that is probably more testament to the poor season that Melrose have had than anything else , their seconds also got stuffed by Peebles by 50 points earlier in the week. Great stuff from Hawick 2nds though !
      Any initiative that encourages isolating the Borders cannot be viewed positively. The Borders clubs view the SRU as an enemy and as long as that remains the case , Borders rugby will continue to deteriorate. Borders clubs don’t seem to understand that the game is dying in the Borders and player numbers are reducing , not because of the actions of the SRU but because of the decisions the Borders clubs are taking. The decision to pull out of the National 2nd leagues was nonsensical and it was just an example of clubs lack of vision and losing the ambition to keep their 2nds teams in a viable and strong league. The Border Junior League has been a disaster , poor quality , very high number of games cancelled because of player numbers and a poir comparison when taken in the context of the National leagues. The really concerning factor was that one of the reasons given for recreating the Border Junior League was that clubs could have greater player availability because many fixtures would not be Saturday fixtures , this hasn’t worked which highlights that the position is deteriorating rapidly. The other concern is that the current position relating to 2nd team rugby was so predictable and those responsible for that decision are now being entrusted with a pot of money to go and make more mistakes with.
      A “five figure sum “ whether that be £10,000 or the less likely sum of £99,000 won’t go far when shared between the Borders clubs and is not the answer to the problem.
      The abandonment of the Super 6 process may provide a few players back into club rugby next season but the number will not be high , particularly in the Borders. The number of players coming back is unpredictable and won’t be evenly spread and unlikely to fill the hole that has been left in 2nd team rugby

      • You can’t blame the Borders or any other region for looking after their own interests after the way the SRU treat club rugby and to suggest the Borders are alone in their displeasure with the SRU is nonsense as of course is your criticism of the Borders clubs for arranging sponsorship for their competition.

        Most of your other points could be levelled at clubs throughout the country.

        It seems you have a big anti-Borders agenda. Shame you can’t see the wider picture.

    • To be fair to the Nail he is not wrong in some of his points , the border league is run by men in there late 60s and early 70s that’s want to take the borders back in time , ask the players what they want? excluding Hawick this bunch of OAPs will destroy the club scene in the once proud area , the next one is fully amateur as it was back in the days , the sad once proud MRFC is leading the charge ,?????? changed days , what hope has MRFC in the Prem when they cant even get close to Hawick 2nds

      • Absolutely right , far too many decisions within the Borders based on nostalgia and memories of what was a vastly a different game and one that has changed significantly since these 60/70 year olds played it. Unfortunately when coupled with the younger “aye been” group that don’t know any different the odds are stacked against decisions that will truly improve the position of Borders rugby. Having sat in some of these Borders rugby club committees I have seen firsthand some of the individuals that influence them and regularly witnessed one eyed arguments and decisions which were never going to be for the good of the game.
        All these individuals always want to go against the grain , view the SRU with suspicion and derision which at times is understandable however there is no longer the player base or the money required in the Borders to make detaching from SRU in whatever form this takes either a feasible or wise option.
        Success in the new Premiership will simply come down to money and success to those clubs with the deepest pockets which will soon send the Borders clubs down the ladder…

  2. Some useful initiatives coming out of the Borders to ensure sustainability. The Clubs in the area ate fairly tightly knit and that should help.

    However local leagues are nothing new, as in the West there are well established reserve leagues operating. There is a measure of success with games belong completed but the geography does not always help. Clubs in the South West, Dumfries and Galloway, suffer in that almost every second weekend they face a long journey up the M74. A whole season of that produces many stresses given there ate too few local Clubs for a competitive league.

    In this Context of distance to be travelled we should all commend the efforts of ORKNEY RFC in their commitment to fulfilling fixtures on the mainland

  3. Great news for all Border teams, and a nice positive development.
    Hopefully it will work to strengthen Border rugby and perhaps become a template for other regions/districts in Scotland to emulate if it’s a success.
    Time will tell and good luck to SBDU.

  4. Well done to the Borders for taking on nurturing rugby in their District in a way that best meets their needs. Hopefully the other Districts take note and develop their own local initiatives. With money tight at the governing body sitting back and waiting for the powers that be to sort things out is not an option.

  5. If the SRU are unwilling to properly administer club rugby you can’t blame regions for taking more control of their destiny. Good luck to them.

    • I’m the first to criticise the SRU but you are way off beam here. Is it the SRUs fault that the Border teams can’t find enough players to fulfil fixtures?

      • Look at the wider picture Dom and the way the SRU have failed to look after clubs across the country. Do you seriously think it is only Borders clubs who are struggling for players?

      • Administer in the sense of running and encouraging club rugby Dom. I fail to see how you cannot see that the SRU are culpable but each to his own.

  6. A very interesting approach. I wish them well.

    At least they are trying something. Though the 10 unfulfilled matches in the Junior cup and 4 matches in the junior league show this isn’t a panacea.

    What is of interest to other clubs is the competition rules that are in place. The focus is on playing matches which is our purpose. It appears no restrictions on 1st team players playing in 2nd team matches. This is not the case in other SR leagues. They are scheduled Fridays and some Thursdays with a few Saturday games. That requires floodlighting but a good idea none the less.

    My sense is that clubs will have to follow a similar approach and manage their local competitions. Back to the future with fixture secretaries?

    • 100%. Something that should be rolled out to other regions.

      Local accountability as well. That’s one of the pros of the Irish branches. You can see if the outcomes match up to the talk.


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