SCOTLAND’S clubs voted by a sizeable majority not to scrap Super6 at the end of the current license period in 2024 during this [Sunday] morning’s AGM at Murrayfield.
A motion, proposed by GHA rugby club, had called for the introduction of a modernised version of the Inter-District Championship in the club game to be funded using cash freed up from discontinuing Super6. An amendment from the Board and Council proposed a consultation with clubs on the prospect of running such a competition below Super6 level, but not as a direct replacement for that tournament. The amendment was passed by a vote of clubs (72-46).
During the lead-up to the vote, Chief Executive Mark Dodson used his presentation to the meeting to offer an impassioned argument in favour of the tournament in which he described it as “the most successful rugby innovation in Scotland in a generation”, claimed that the competition has averaged 5,000 viewers per game online through Scottish Rugby channels alone this season, and said getting rid of Super6 would be “sports business suicide”. He reiterated his desire to grow the league to eight and eventually 10 teams.
Scottish Rugby’s Director of Performance Rugby Jim Mallinder also spoke in favour of preserving Super6 on the basis that the league is bridging the gap between the club and the professional game, better preparing youngsters and late-developers to make the step-up. Glen Tippett of Ayrshire Bulls (Ayr RFC) and Mike Dalgetty of Southern Knights (Melrose) also spoke in favour of Super6.
Rangi Jericevich of proposing club GHA, Neil Hamilton of seconder club Hawick, Bill Faulds of Falkirk and Dom Ward of Grangemouth Stags all spoke in favour of the motion.
Glasgow Hawks motion
Meanwhile, the second motion, proposed by Glasgow Hawks, aimed at ensuring that distribution of the £20m Scottish Government Covid bail-out – £15m grant and £5m low-interest loan – is reported in the proper manner. It requires a schedule of all payments from these two funds to be published and made available to the Scottish Rugby Council, or successor organisation, on a quarterly basis, and for assurances to be given that none of the cash will be used to support the recruitment of non-Scottish-qualified players either directly or indirectly.
Once again, there was an amendment put forward by the Board and Council. On this occasion, the amendment claimed that the part of the motion relating to government money being spent on overseas players is unlawful under “sections 13 and/or 19 of the Equality Act 2010”.
Following submissions on both sides arguing this legal point, the amendment was voted down (37-77) and the unamended motion was carried by a show of voting cards by a significant majority which did not require a written ballot.
The third and final motion was proposed by Haddington, calling for the Scottish Rugby Council to convene a review of the Scottish Rugby Union and the Scottish Rugby Union Limited’s legal and secretarial function, which “shall include consideration of the relative advantages and disadvantages of continuing such functions in-house when compared with outsourcing to a third party or third parties, in part or in whole”. There were no amendments, with the Board and Council simply opposing the motion.
Board non-executive director Julia Bracewell, who is a solicitor, spoke against the motion, praising the work of the legal department in dealing with a broad range of issues and claiming that out-sourcing would triple costs, by between £1.5 million or £2.5 million. She guessed what the review would probably conclude, suggesting that the whole exercise would be a waste of time when other more important issues should be prioritised.
Bobby Frazer, the National Three Council representative from Murrayfield Wanderers, an Advocate and a member of the on-going Standing Committee on Governance (SCOG) also spoke against the motion. “It is unnecessary, it is a distraction to more important matters that are going on at the minute, and causes disquiet to those who are caught up in the middle of it,” he stated.
Lesley Thomson QC, the senior Board member of Scottish Rugby and former Solicitor General for Scotland, said she was “totally disappointed and saddened” at having to address the issue, rebuked Keith Wallace of Haddington for proposing the motion, and said her focus was on staff well-being.
She said: “For the seven members of staff in the legal and governance department, to have a motion put into the public domain, and to call their performance into public scrutiny – because that is what this does, if you read the motion and the rationale it is a lot more than ‘have we got our conflict of interest right?’ – for a number of months while we all wait for an AGM, is not just sad, it is disappointing and it is contrary to the principles of the rugby family and fairness.
“These people are employees, they have employee rights, and the raising of this motion, by the way, has opened up an employee can of worms. That will go away if the motion is voted against.
“It is all very well to come along and say that you are saddened that any hardworking staff thought this was a criticism. Read the motion, that’s what they thought. You haven’t done the reassurance over the last months, we have.
“So, for the seven members of staff. Three males, four females, who have between them 74 years of service to Scottish Rugby, then my plea is that we put an arm round one another’s shoulder, as was asked for earlier, and do not let this go any further in the public domain.”
After a point of order from Wallace, and a discussion involving various figures including SRU President Ian Barr, Vice-President Colin Rigby, Phil Thomas of seconder club Currie Chieftain, and Gavin McColl, the independent chair of SCOG, the motion was withdrawn.
“I can’t give an assurance at the moment from Board and Council that we can deal with this in an alternative manner, but it does fall within the scope of SCOG and as such will be discussed by SCOG, and I’m sure will be discussed by both Board and Council as we go forwards,” explained Barr.
“So, the position we are at is that the motion will be withdrawn today. Both Haddington and Currie have reserved the right if they are not satisfied to resubmit that motion in early December, when we are proposing to have a remote SGM [to deal with the governance review].”