THE survey to canvas the views of Scotland’s clubs on the best league format from next year onwards has been circulated via email by Graham Ireland, the SRU’s Head of Regulation, on behalf of Gavin MacColl QC – who is the Independent Chair of the Scottish Rugby Council Standing Committee on Governance.
The questionnaire, which was sent out yesterday [Friday] afternoon, is the consequence of a successful motion tabled by Aberdeen Grammar at August’s AGM calling for greater debate and consultation on the impact of certain aspects of the SRU’s controversial Agenda 3 programme.
Three specific areas were highlighted in the motion –
1. The placement of the Super 6 Amateur teams with the proposed league structure, including a moratorium on any Super 6 Amateur Team being promoted or placed into the new Championship.
2. The definition of ‘Amateur’ player, in respect to the leagues below the Super 6, being clearly defined with due consideration to particular leagues and geographical locations of clubs. This should consider but not be restricted to:
i. Tiered Approach to expenditure limits on players
ii. Marque players [sic]
iii. Wholly Amateur status for clubs out-with the highest tiers of non-Super 6 Clubs.
3. Season Structure / League Structure – to determine number of leagues, size of leagues being dependent on placement of Super 6 Amateur sides.
A cover letter delivered alongside the survey pointed out that a separate successful motion at the AGM amended the Bye-Laws so that any change to the format of the Premiership and National League must now be ratified by a general meeting of the SRU’s member clubs.
Ireland then states –
“Super 6 teams will play in their own, discrete competition (with no promotion or relegation). By itself, the creation and existence of the Super 6 competition does not cause any alteration to the existing league structures. Unless specific changesare made, those clubs playing within the current league structure (including Super 6 franchise holders) will continue to do so, with promotion and relegation applying according to existing competition rules.”
This is at odds with section 3.5 of the Super 6 Franchise Information Pack published in November 2017, which deals with the Championship (top flight of the domestic game) in 2019-20, and explicitly states that in the case of a one club Super 6 franchise, where the club finishes as one of the top 12 in the country at the end of the 2018-19 season, the ‘senior amateur’ team will be positioned in the National League for 2019-20.
Adding that –
Clubs in the Premiership in the 2018-19 season that do not have a Super 6 franchise for the 2019-20 season will play in the Championship. At the conclusion of the 2018-19 season normal promotion and relegation between the Premiership and the National Leagues will be suspended. However, to ensure the Championship contains 12 sides the places that remain will be populated on the basis of the National 1 2018-19 finishing positions. Selection will be made in descending order starting with the team finishing top that season.
However, we already know that the SRU do not put much store in what that document told us, given that the commitment not to have more than two clubs in Super 6 from any region was overlooked in order to select three from Edinburgh.
It may be argued that the Bye-Law changes at the AGM have superseded the information pack. However, that would open up a whole new can of worms given the SRU’s determination to categorise Super 6 alongside the Championship and National Leagues as part of the domestic game.
In fairness, the survey seems entirely reasonable and designed to draw out a genuine consensus of opinion – even if it remains utterly bizarre that the consultation process is only really starting now, some 13 months after Super 6 was first unveiled by SRU Chief Executive Mark Dodson at the 2017 AGM and less than a year before the new competition is due to kick-off.
The survey is to be completed and returned by 31st October.
Question one asks whether the existing domestic league structure should remain in place for the 2019-20 season, meaning the Premiership remains as is (including Super 6 Club XVs), subject to promotion and relegation.
Question two seeks consensus on whether there should be two, three or four nationwide leagues before regional rugby kicks in.
Question three returns to that thorny issue of where Super 6 ‘club XVs’ should play, offering a choice of Premiership, National 1, National 2, National 3 or other.
Question four asks those who want Super 6 ‘Club XVs’ to play below the Premiership/Championship whether there should be a moratorium on promotion for those teams, and if so for how long.
Question five invites the respondent to provide any general comments.