IT is understood that there will be no relegation from the Premiership at the end of this season, but the ‘Club XVs’ of Super 6 franchises will be removed from that league and placed into the division below [National League One], if the recommendations of Gavin MacColl QC’s Governance Working Party are accepted by the SRU Board tomorrow [Thursday] night and then ratified at a Special General Meeting of member clubs, which is likely to be in late March.
MacColl – who was mandated at last August’s AGM to come up with plan for how the club game should be structured after the launch of Super 6 next season – has conducted two surveys and met with various club forums in the process of drawing up his recommendations. He presented his findings to the SRU Council last Thursday night and apparently received a favourable response. The Board will hear his thoughts tomorrow night, but as his recommendations include a material change in the format to national club competitions it will need approval from the clubs at either an AGM or SGM, where a two-thirds majority is required. For purely logistical reasons, it is unlikely that a meeting can convene before the conclusion of the Six Nations in mid-March.
It is understood that MacColl has resisted calls for a moratorium on promotion for Super 6 ‘Club XVs’ out of National League One for a set number of years, but he has recommended limiting promotion/relegation between those two leagues to one-up and one-down per season.
There has also been calls for Super 6 ‘Club XVs’ to be placed in their own distinct 2nd XV league, but MacColl seems to have accepted the argument that these teams are member clubs – with the Super 6 element the new creation – so they are entitled to play in the National Leagues.
SRU Chief Executive Mark Dodson stated when he launched his controversial Agenda 3 programme in August 2017 that all domestic leagues below Super 6 would be strictly amateur. However, MacColl has apparently recommended that the Championship [which is replacing the Premiership] will have limited player payments while everything below that will be amateur, but with caveats for coaching and other legitimate forms of employment related to the club.
It is understood that MacColl has recommended that the general league structure should consist of a 10-team top division [the Championship], then three national leagues made up of 12 teams, with everything else regionalised.
With Super 6 ‘Club XVs’ dropping to National League One, the Championship next season will be made up of the four current Premiership clubs who have not been included in Super 6 – Currie Chieftains, Edinburgh Accies, Glasgow Hawks and Hawick – plus the top six clubs in National One at the end of the current season.
MacColl did not deal with the issue of whether Super 6 should be shelved altogether. Ordinarily, the introduction of Super 6 would have needed two-third support at an AGM or SGM, but because Dodson persuaded the SRU Council – the elected representatives of the clubs – to authorise him to create the league before he presented his plan at the 2017 AGM, the percentages have been flipped and stopping (as opposed to initiating) the process would now need a two-thirds majority.
It seems unlikely that opponents of Super 6 would be able to mobilise that level of opposition from rank and file clubs, many of whom are happy to support a change of structure on the basis that it will help the pro game and doesn’t impact their own viability.