SRU urges more clubs to apply for Hardship Fund before end-of-month deadline

Prize money to be redistributed to clubs as part of coronavirus lockdown support programme

Sheila Begbie, the SRU's director of rugby development. Image courtesy: Scottish Rugby/SNS Group.
Sheila Begbie, the SRU's director of rugby development. Image courtesy: Scottish Rugby/SNS Group.

LESS than half of the money earmarked by the SRU for its Club Hardship Fund (CHF) has so far been applied for, Sheila Begbie has revealed. The SRU’s Director of Rugby Development, Begbie has urged more clubs to apply to the CHF for help before the 30 April deadline, and has pledged to increase the fund from its initial £500,000 if necessary to ensure all clubs remain in business.

When the scheme was launched last month, clubs were told that the usual maximum for which they could apply was £5,000, with more being possible only in exceptional circumstances.  But, recognising that the longer all rugby is suspended the harder it could be for some clubs to stay afloat, Begbie suggested that the maximum could be increased if necessary.

“To date we’ve had 27 clubs who have applied, to a value of circa £200,000,” Begbie explained. “The applications will close on 30th April. We would obviously love more clubs to make an application. We will sit down with all the information that’s come in, and then make a decision so that we will pay the clubs in June. 

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“We will do whatever it takes in terms of supporting clubs. If this [period without rugby] were to go on for a substantial period, £5,000 is not enough for clubs, so we will review it and look at what we have to do going forward. Once we get into June, end of June, we’ll look to review where we are, and what the information is that’s coming from the UK and Scottish Governments – and maybe whether or not we have an indication of when rugby will start again.

“I would say the majority are in a ballpark figure of £4000-plus,” she continued when asked for details about the applications that Murrayfield has received so far. “While we are saying it [the maximum] is £5000, in extenuating circumstances it can actually be more than that. We’ve had a number of clubs who’ve applied for more than £5000. The maximum that has been applied for at the moment has been circa £14,000.

“One of the pretexts of us looking at the Club Hardship Fund was  we were quite clear that we didn’t want any of the clubs to go to the wall as the result of Covid-19. At the moment we don’t have any intel on clubs that are potentially going to go to the wall, and we hope that doesn’t happen. That’s why we’re looking to invest in clubs and support them through this period.

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“The kind of support that we’re seeing clubs requesting is around retaining their staff – that’s been by far the biggest majority. Clubs are looking to both the CHF and government job-retention scheme.

“We’ve also got other clubs that are looking for support around their utilities – their gas, electricity, water and waste. And these clubs are calculating what they need to maintain their club while the clubs are closed, and speaking to their suppliers. So they’re looking for us to support them with payment of utilities.

“Some clubs are looking for ground-maintenance support. They’re looking to make sure that their pitches are maintained over the period where the clubs are closed. Some clubs have external bodies that come in and do their maintenance for them, so they’re looking for us to provide support there.”

Those clubs who rely on their sevens tournaments for a substantial slice of annual income could be particularly hard hit if the suspension of play continued into August and September. Although she implied that full compensation for such loss of income would be beyond her department’s budget, Begbie suggested that some relevant help would nonetheless be available.

“We’ve been talking to a couple of clubs who are looking to plan for August in terms of their sevens programmes, but they have a contingency plan if they’ll need to push their sevens competitions back. It is going to be a big challenge for the clubs that make a lot of revenue through sevens, and I would say that we probably wouldn’t have the budget to support every club that has a sevens tournament that might not have it in terms of generating income, but we’ll look at other ways in which we can support clubs going forward.”

Redistributing prize money

As the domestic season has been declared null and void, clubs will not automatically receive the prize money they would have got according to where they finished in which league. But Begbie insisted that the prize pot – which pays out sums ranging from £5k for winning the Premiership to £500 for finishing third in one of the regional league, with the whole fund being worth around £100k – would still be disbursed to clubs one way or another.

“We will look at that money. Absolutely, that money will not go back into the big pot, because it has been ring-fenced for the club game.

“Because the clubhouses haven’t been used, there’s a potential for something like legionnaires’ disease. Should we support all clubs at all levels who have facilities? We’re looking at different options of what we might do going forward. Maybe we need to wait and see.” 

Biggar and Dalkeith, who were sure to have finished top of National One and East Division Three respectively, have appealed against the decision to declare the season null and void and hope to get the required support for a special general meeting of the SRU. However, while accepting that such a move was possible, Begbie insisted the union had respected clubs’ wishes by ruling the season null and void.

“We did go through a process. Our preference would have been to complete the season and we did have options for that, but when the impact of Covid-19 became quite apparent we recognised that it wasn’t going to be possible.

“We went through a consultation with the clubs. We had 108 out of 146 clubs engaged in the process through the conveners of various committees. Clubs were presented with different scenarios and by far the biggest percentage of people in the club game wanted the season to be null and void.

“This wasn’t a vote. It was a consultation with the clubs where we asked them what they wanted. The biggest majority of clubs have come back and told us what they wanted. We’ve gone with what the biggest majority wanted. I understand that Biggar and Dalkeith don’t agree with that and want to do something to make us reflect. If something comes in we will look at it, but at the moment we have not heard anything from either club.

 “I have asked Vicky Cox, our competitions and compliance manager, to work with appropriate people within Scottish rugby to reflect and review the process we have gone through, and where we can to make improvements to that process. We will discuss the process with the clubs so that if we have to deal with something like this in future then it will be something we have discussed and agreed.

“Who knows with Covid how long it is going to be? We could be in another situation like this further down the line, so we all want to be comfortable that we have a robust process that has been agreed upon. I absolutely want the clubs to be part of the process for what this might look like in the future.”

‘Dark Blue Blood’ is a black and white book which should be read all over

About Stuart Bathgate 1427 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. The prize money distribution will be very interesting.

    One of the consequences of null and voiding the season is that the season didn’t take place. There are no winners or losers. All results are scrubbed.

    How then will the “prize money” for a competition that didn’t take place be allocated?

    I would suggest a consultation with clubs with five options…..

  2. Surprised how few clubs have applied.
    With every chance that we will see little or no rugby this year, at least get your bills paid for a few months.
    Forms may not be perfect but not too hard to get an application in that can only help your club.
    Sheila’s team have also helped, if confused, so don’t miss out.

  3. WT feckin F! I sit here in the Shires wondering which club would have the audacity to submit a request for £14,000!!! We are all in it together…Westminster says, #AsOne say those at BTM. That club needs to be named and shamed.
    So, who could it be? Melrose…to cover a part of their six figure sum from TV rights on the Sevens? You know, the one weekend that’s blanked out by the SRU fixture folk to ensure maximum attendance.
    Surely to God those folks down there would have had insurance against a pandemic, like the wise people at Wimbledon, the R&A, Glastonbury and the SRU. *Screech to a halt*, the SRU did have insurance, yeah? Of course they did. Didn’t they? In the wake of the recent SARS threat every decent organisation had THAT “pandemic” word in their insurance clause.
    OK…moving on. Is it Glasgow Hawks? In a vain attempt to pay their outstanding debts to various venues and numerous ex players? Perhaps they need funds to finance a second fifteen. Like anyone would rock up to Hawk’s firsts, let alone a 2nd XV? But then again, stranger things have happened. Like a Pandemic.
    London Scottish? Poor bastards…living in COVID-19 infested suburbia. Forced to go part-time despite having the prospect of Saracens’ huge crowd turning up at least once in the forthcoming season. If it happens! Wow…how Saracens would love a “Null and Void” right now.
    What about Old Glory? £14k would buy enough Domestos and syringes to heal not only their players and staff, and the wider D.C. community.
    Come on…come clean…who are you, you blood sucking parasite?
    Talking of sucking, yes, we all like a good suck. I’m all for Biggar and Dalkeith getting their just rewards. Titles won and silverware exchanged. I hope their names are engraved deep on THEIR trophies. As for “winnings” that needs to be divided equally amongst the clubs. The clubs languishing at the bottom of their respective league tables are equally disadvantaged by this whole sorry state of affairs…albeit insured by the governing spineless body, not! Afterall, we are all in it together #AsOne.

    • Absolutely outstanding comments, RB. Yes – 27 clubs applying for £5,000 each would only account for £135,000….. Maybe most clubs would prefer going to the wall instead of bending over to ask for any of the SRU’s dirty money…. or the amounts on offer are derisory, mere drops in the ocean of forthcoming sporting insolvency? Just a thought.

      Hopefully, you won’t have spilled a drop of your pink gin while bashing out that well-targeted tirade.

      Word has it that the Dreaded Silver Croc has been spotted, helpless with mirth, floating upside down in the Roseburn billabong….

  4. What Planet do the incumbents of Murrayfield exist in? If this season is null and void and logic suggests that it is that means to survive to the season hopefully starting around the end of September 2020 that represents the princely sum of about £25.00 a day!

    That’s hardly enough to get you drunk each day even at club rates.

    Over the same period of time to take a single example, let’s say the CEO on his reduced salary, if it continues at the current rate will be a daily £1,597 and 34pence but that is pre tax of course but doesn’t obviously include any bonus that may be in the pipeline.

  5. There should be no time limit on the hardship fund. Please clubs use this if we don’t then it will be interesting interesting to see where the money goes.

  6. To say that the SRU hasn’t heard anything from Biggar and Dalkeith is ridiculous. We have done nothing but write over these past 3 weeks. We were told on the 14th that we had no right to appeal. On the 16th I replied asking Bradbury and McGhee to allow us to see the consultation process and numbers – I have no reply although I know they received the request. Perhaps it is not an important enough subject for Bradbury and Begbie to discuss. As they are “waiting” for my mail I shall write again today.Perhaps the SRU has been on the Donald Trump press course!!!!

    • Perhaps they extend the Non Disclosure Agreement to include not reading adverse comments in the media, or opening letters without permission, just a thought.

  7. Re the null & void league decision.

    “This wasn’t a vote. It was a consultation with the clubs”

    Sorry, what …

    • Consultation?

      My sides are aching!

      Just another example in a long list of SRU gerrymandering (hooray – something at which they have become quite good!)

  8. And the stuff in the Biggar and Dalkeith decision is just tosh.

    I’ve stated several times now that clubs in the Midlands were not given the five options.

    Actually it should have been two options – null and void versus complete season (of which there are then a further four options).

    If this was a “consultation” how do you arrive at a majority? Surely that’s a vote?

    The final kicker is we will look to improve the process. What process? It was made up on the hoof and badly flawed. Why the speed to close the season? Why would the Board have a view in this? What’s the point of the Championship committee and Council in this regard.

    If the rugby development group wanted to play out the season why wasn’t that a key factor? You are the guys and girls on the ground.

    Perhaps the Board, Council and Rugby development dept need to engage with the electoral reform society on how to run decision making processes?

  9. Good to push this. However some big questions here.

    Why are you surprised at this stage that only 27 clubs have applied? There is a whole development network (I know many of them are furloughed) who could be speaking with clubs or asking why they haven’t applied yet? Is the process to complicated? Are there other barriers?

    If the limit is £5k per club but exceptions will be considered, those clubs who stick to the guidelines could be short changed while the club that asked for £14k May benefit.

  10. How can she come out and say they have never heard from Biggar and Dalkeith.
    They have had numerous emails from Biggars Secretary, Players and Club members
    in the last weeks.

    • Are you surprised?

      Cheats, liars & rogues will say anything to escape scrutiny and censure.

      Go figure!


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