A SPECIAL GENERAL MEETING of the Scottish Rugby Union will convene at Murrayfield tomorrow night [starting at 6pm] to vote on a single motion which aims to put to bed once and for all concerns amongst rank-and-file clubs about the impact of the introduction of a closed-shop Super 6 league to sit at the summit of the domestic game from next season onwards.
After a year and a half of wrangling, it has boiled down to the issue of where the ‘Club XVs’ (or ‘2nd XVs’ depending on your perspective) of these Super 6 organisations should fit into what remains of the traditional league structure.
However, with no evidence of any sort of impact assessment being conducted at the genesis of this process, a number of key issues relating to how the league will look and operate remain up in the air, and are unlikely to be resolved this weekend. Such as –
- What is the status of Super 6? Is it part of the performance/professional game? Or is it part of the domestic game?
- Will there be dual registration for players between Super 6 and what remains of the club game? An amendment to tomorrow night’s motion which sought to clarify this question has been left off the agenda by SRU General Counsel Robert Howat on the basis that it does not relate directly to league structure.
It is also worth noting that the SRU have still not released figures on player numbers in Scotland based on the data collected from their much-heralded ‘SCRUMS’ player-registration system, which was launched at the start of the season. Such information would be useful at a time when clubs (and the governing body) are trying to establish a league and season structure best suited to arresting the crisis that many believe is threatening the future of the game in this country. However, an SRU spokesman has explained that: “The collation and verification process is still on-going and will run through into the off-season. The aim is to get the most accurate picture possible.”
But those are issues for another day. In the meantime, all eyes are on the SGM and the specific issue at hand.
The Offside Line has been following the progress of Super 6 from the start, and we have compiled a list of 10 articles which gives a flavour of how we got to this point.
- 5th August 2017 – SRU Chief Executive Mark Dodson presents his blueprint for the future of Scottish club rugby [known as Agenda 3] at the organisation’s Annual General Meeting. His slick presentation includes a new domestic league structure with a ‘Super 6’ league sitting at the summit. Participating teams will be chosen by an SRU-appointed selection panel.
- 19th November 2017 – On the eve of the launch of the application process to become a Super 6 ‘franchise’, The Offside Line published the first of a two-part ‘long read’ which asked some of the key questions which were still to be answered about how the new league was going to look and operate. Seventeen months down the line, some of those issues have now been cleared up, but a number remain a mystery.
- 20th November 2017 – The SRU issue a ‘Super 6 information pack’ which provides the basis for applications to join the new league. Point 6.1.2 of the pack explains that there will be a strict demarcation between players contracted to Super 6 and the rest of the club game, with ‘playing down’ strictly prohibited: “During the period of their contract Super 6 players will play fixtures only as directed by the head coach. They will not play in any fixture in which amateur players are engaged. Penalties for breaching this regulation may be substantial for both head coach and player.”
- 24th November 2017 – Mark Dodson gives a lengthy interview to The Offside Line, which was published in two parts, during which the Chief Executive was typically bullish about his pet project.
- 15th January 2018 – Stevie Gemmell, the SRU’s Technical Director, met the press to give an update on the vision for Super 6.
- 25th March 2018 – The Offside Line published a response to an interview Mark Dodson gave the BBC in which he had taken aim at those who had dared express doubts about Super 6. “If you listen to the people who bleat the loudest, they are the people who least understand it and who don’t want anything to change,” he had told the BBC. “Change is great when it’s not happening to you, I find. People who are still banging on about it are either ill-informed or will never change anyway.”
2nd May 2018 – The successful candidate clubs for Super 6 are announced but controversy immediately envelops the selection.
18th August 2018 – An SRU AGM motion proposed by Aberdeen Grammar is passed by an overwhelming majority, which secures the right of clubs to debate Agenda 3 – and specifically the impact of Super 6 – in an open forum at the AGM, then complete questionnaires which will be returned to the SRU, with the whole process to be overseen by the Council Standing Committee on Governance led by independent Chairman Gavin McColl QC. The three specified areas of concern are: placement of Super 6 amateur teams in the domestic leagues and the potential of a moratorium on these sides being promoted into the new top tier of Championship; the definition of amateur players within the league below Super 6; and season and league structure. The Offside Line recorded verbatim the lengthy debate which followed on the issue of where the ‘Club XVs’ of Super 6 teams should fit into the domestic league structure.
- 1st March 2019 – The SGM on league structure (and where Super 6 ‘Club XVs’ fit into it) is scheduled for 22nd March, with a single motion being proposed by SRU President Dee Bradbury based on the recommendations made by Gavin McColl QC and his standing committee.
22nd March 2019 – Three amendments to the SGM motion are accepted by SRU General Counsel Robert Howat, but the one proposed by GHA on the issue of dual registration is rejected on the basis that it does not relate directly to league structure.