SRU AGM: clubs vote against scrapping Super6

Motion on recording distribution of Scottish Government bail-out passes unamended, and motion on review of legal department withdrawn c

Lee Millar of Watsonians, Craig Jackson of Southern Knights, Lars Morris of Ayrshire Bulls, Reyner Kennedy of Stirling County, Chris Laidlaw of Boroughmuir Bears and Iain Wilson of Heriots. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

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.


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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.

Haddington motion

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].”


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About David Barnes 2616 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.

33 Comments

  1. Despite offering a taste of (poorly-supported) higher-intensity semi-professional rugby, in comparison with the more attractive, compelling alternative of a comprehensive District-based, clubs-managed traditional structure for both development and competition (for locally-reared SQ talent) at all levels, i.e. with the effective involvement and support of area grassroots clubs, this artificially-manipulated and utterly contrived S6 gambit does nothing / zero to add value to the wider basis of Scottish rugby.

    The costs of re-introducing a fully joined-up District alternative to replace the current imbalanced and fragmented SRU-controlled scenario would not exceed those of the current development and competition systems (including Super 6) – but the benefits of engaging the whole of Scottish rugby into a vibrant vertically-integrated District set-up, restoring historical connections and Regional co-operation would be immense.

  2. Super 6 TV coverage is really good I have season tickets for Warriors and as a result of the TV coverage my partner and I will attend a few Super 6 games when Scotland and Glasgow are not playing at home – so 2 extra spectators maybe 4-6 times a year – every little helps!
    Just wish Glasgow/Edinburgh were on free to view to encourage more people to watch rugby.

  3. I see a few posts suggesting that some clubs below S6 are paying players. I thought that was to stop. Can anyone confirm if it is still happening?

  4. Basically all any reasonable person should want is questions offered up be answered with facts as opposed to the all too frequent aspirational ‘trust us we know what we are doing’ response, a defense seen with monotonous regularity if these columns are to be believed.
    I don’t know the full background to the question responded too by an eminent QC regarding the legal team at Murrayfield, nor do I require it when my criticism on observation on the remarks of Lesley Thomason were a ‘homage’ to Sir Edward Marshall Hall who famously offered up to the Jury at a trial of a woman of dubious virtue accused of murdering her client: Look at her, life hasn’t given her a chance, [pause for effect] will you?
    But to actually rebuke the individual asking the question offers an indication of being above oneself, a not uncommon attitude in the, ‘how dare you question me’ clique. Well people do dare and they would appreciate a decent answer. Perhaps as one respondent answered that it would be a cost of between £1.5 to £2.5m to outsource, well that is all very well and good but with such a divergence of a £million it rather looks like a ‘guesstimate’ rather than an accountable response.
    What is the problem of questioning the relevance of the efficacy of any part of the organisation that is the SRU? Of course there is one aspect that is clear, criticise some area of governance or efficiency and it reflects on those that are in charge of the ‘professional’ administrative aspects, a case of ‘let the professionals do their job’ BUT don’t criticise them if it appears to be inefficient or as proven justifiable criticism of employee welfare?
    It makes me wonder, is it only those of the Legal profession and their associates that get an arm around the shoulder? For my money they need to ‘rustle-up’ a better response than that, pun intended.

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    • Correct George, I’m sure Keith Russell would’ve welcomed an arm round his shoulders. The stench of hypocrisy in the narrative opposing motion 3 is overpowering

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    • Maybe because it says when watching on apps such as bbc sport and Youtube what the viewer count is at all times? The only one which does not reveal figure is prem sports, but i’m sure he can get that information easily enough.

      I’m sure you can get an idea of how many are attending the games… by looking at the screen… or being there in person.

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  5. DLW. I was at the watsonians knights game. A decent crowd and more than I see at my clubs games. There’s more to it than crowds. Looking at the fixture list most teams have 12 to 15 hrs live TV. That’s very sellable to advertisers. It’s a breach of trust and regulations with repercussions in nat 1 are paying. I accept some are but why
    Dan Carter played for his home club when in his prime. Huge crowd they won but all folk talked about was having played with or against such a good player and having a beer with him
    Let’s just put the game first the time spent moaning can be put to better uses

  6. Dom with respect please do your homework. S6 squad is 32 .5 of whom are sru academy players who only play where allocated. That’s 27 with a match day squad of 23 so 4 left less injuries. In addition s6 players are not permitted to play nat 1 only prem. However not to ther club of origin they are pooled . If a hawick lad has been injured and only played a few games. At a time when we have lost 18 months let him play for hawick a few times. They can only play 28 games in a calander year by welfare regulations. All easily sorted by more appropriate controls if people genuinely put players first .

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    • So those Academy players wouldn’t be playing without S6? Come on now!

      The franchises can already bring in emergency players when required, with approval. So it’s not just a squad of 32. One S6 side listed 45 separate players required to get their S6 side out. Where did they come from?

      Whether they are academy players or contracted S6 players there are still 9 players not playing. My apologies. Rather than 69 guys twiddling their thumbs of a weekend it’s 54

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  7. As a complete outside, it sounds to me like incredibly emotive language being used by Lesley Thomson against the Haddington motion. For an organisation owned by its member clubs, it seems perfectly legitimate to me to ask about the performance of and financial costs of one department within it. To turn that question into a personal attack on seven individuals and their jobs, suggests a measure of desperation in defending the status quo. Almost Sturgeonesque in declaring some questions to be ‘not valid’

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    • Quite right Moody Blue. The performance of Lesley Thomson in seeking to attack the proper of the motion says it all. Yet another one at the top of SRU who is totally unfit for office.

      Well done to the author of the piece for fully reporting her words so all can see her pathetic performance.

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      • Indeed….. Former Solicitor General rejects scrutiny – if only to avoid being held to account, along with a small army of executive associates, fellow insiders and passengers on the gravy train! They actually get paid for that, too….

        A large “part of the problem” for several shoo-in terms of office at EH12, during which the Junta’s corporate / individual failings and excesses have been exposed unfavourably to say the least, not difficult to understand where the less-than-fragrant legal lady is coming from in her attempts to avoid review.

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  8. The SRU is owned by the Trust and therefore the clubs. Our clubs are owned by our members and therefore our players. Submitting motions that breach equality laws just shows that clubs still aren’t putting all players first. Suggesting a restructure of legal and admin? After they’ve just got us through a difficult pandemic! There’s plenty clubs out there who put player enjoyment first, make it an enjoyable place to play rugby and a friendly environment to socialise in which is vital after so much time in isolation over the past 18 months. If you can create a positive environment that encourages friendship, togetherness and inclusivity your club will succeed. If you blame the SRU for every issue your club has you will probably still have the same struggles year in and year out.

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    • No it’s not. Murrayfield is owned by the trust. The SRU – the clubs – control the trust.

      SRU Ltd are the operating entity that manage and operate the business of the Union. The SRU is an unincorporated association and has no legal personality and cannot undertake contracts.

      Many rugby clubs in Scotland will operate under similar structure though several have shifted to limited company set ups.

      Finally the motion on the grant and loan funding – you know that £20 Million of public money given to Scottish Rugby – does not breach equality legislation. If you were at the meeting, Kenny Hamilton nicely described why it did no such thing. The Board and Council were using one legal opinion. It would be fascinating to see the question that was asked of the lawyers and their full answer. Byelaw 18 covers it as well.

    • The Hawks motion doesn’t breach the Equalities Act. Whether or not someone is SQ or not bears no necessary relation to any of the protected characteristics listed under the Act. I can think of some good practical and other reasons to have backed the SRU amendment, but it’s not illegal.

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  9. Please then explain why the Premiership pays players. At the moment It’s not an amateur league. So if A pays players they can’t play against team b as they are amateur ?? . Oh and he can’t be dropped. Oh and the 2nds and 1sts of a club can’t train against each other. Nope its all smoke and mirrors to appease those who wanted to scupper s6. That arguement is dead it will live or die by its own devices. I repeat if folk want to sort it they will. Players will be watching those who continue to block change.

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    • That’s complete rubbish old timer.

      It was Mark Dodson and the Board who set up Agenda 3 and Super 6. The principal being amateurs would be unsafe playing against athletes who train at a higher level. There is merit in that argument.

      Though I suspect it was a convenient excuse to ensure that the Premiership weren’t able to undermine Super6 by paying players. There is a hiatus on the Prem page bets but they are supposed to revert to completely amateur status.

      The bigger issue is about Super 6 sides using their club teams to deploy the 10 players who don’t get picked on a weekend thereby skewing the playing resources of those teams currently playing in National 1.

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      • Well said Dom, I agree that’s the key issue especially in the Borders. Very few are paying to watch S6 so how and when can it stand on its own feet? And on the issue of player payment some clubs in Nat 1 are still paying players.

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  10. Let’s now concentrate on making rugby stronger .clubs need to see sence and allow s6 players to drop down when available . We spend too much time thinking of ways of preventing them playing. Time to move on. In nz all blacks turn out wherever and it’s applauded. We look to ban s6 players from returning to it for 12 months if they are unsigned and want to help their club out whilst revigorating their chances or have a change in circumstances. What a disgrace and quite possibly illegal. If rugby and players are genuinely to the fore .? Time to get a grip

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    • Old Timer,

      It was the Board of Scottish Rugby that told us Clubs that professional players (be they part-time or full-time) will not be allowed to play against non-professional players – it’s a health and welfare issue.

      Perhaps the Super 6 squads should not be so big.

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    • This was not of the clubs making. If what you say happened a club like Melrose would become a warehousing super club with the other Border clubs becoming basically junior clubs. This would also happen in Glasgow and the North as franchises were added.

  11. That was one long meeting! Before anyone thinks the motions dominated it took 90 mins to get through the President, SCOG, Chair and CEO presentations. And the obligatory promotional video.

    I’m struck by the version of Mark Dodson that showed up today. Interesting opening on “as we search for common ground” and just how brilliant everything is if we could only just focus on the future. He will be furious with the past versions of a Mark Dodson that was uncooperative, belligerent and forcing his agenda on others. I did chuckle at his comment about having an effective dispute resolution process.

    All attention now shifts to SCOG. Rather poor response rate with only 34 clubs replying to the consultation process. Unsurprising given we only had 10 days to reply.

    Much needed changes to be proposed to byelaws to enable hybrid meeting formats.

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  12. Seven(!) members of staff to handle legal & governance matters appears, in my view, to be excessive – not least because they seem to devote considerable efforts to propping up the Murrayfield establishment versus the needs / wants of the Union’s Member Clubs.

    As I’ve mentioned previously, management and governance of Scottish Rugby (& Scottish rugby) resembles an ongoing high-stakes game of Cowboys and Injuns…..

    Frequently difficult to tell which is which, whom to trust, mind you.

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    • Glad to see common sense prevailed, the usual nonsense of a few clubs and some conspiracy theorists trying to bring down Scottish Rugby. SRU are overall doing a very good and should be trusted to continue the good work.

      Let the pros do their jobs (and don’t take life so seriously)

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      • Tin hat firmly on there Neil.

        As you well know the SRU is the clubs. It’s also established that SRU Limited is owned by the clubs through the Trust.

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