Melrose RFC tops league table of council finance

Financial support from Scottish Borders Council to local rugby clubs has been under discussion.
Financial support from Scottish Borders Council to local rugby clubs has been under discussion.

A league table of handouts from the council to Borders rugby clubs has been released, showing which clubs have been receiving the most money over the last nine years, writes Joseph Anderson, local democracy reporter.

Far from a level playing field, the figures show a big disparity in the amount of funding each club received between 2009-10 and 2018-18, ranging from over £60,000 to £60.

Melrose RFC, which has been the most successful Borders club over the last few seasons, has also benefited from the most support from Scottish Borders Council, receiving £68,701 over the nine-year period.

Hawick and Gala rugby clubs, who received the second and third most funding from Scottish Borders Council, still got less than half of what Melrose did over the same period, receiving £25,277 and £24,829 respectively.

Behind those clubs in the handout list were Peebles (£16,500), Duns (£15,871), Jedforest (£10,640) Selkirk (£6325) and Kelso (£1060).

Right at the bottom is St Boswells RFC, which received just £60 in the last nine years.

However, the majority of funding provided to Melrose RFC comes from the economic development fund, which supports the annual Melrose Sevens tournament.

A Scottish Borders Council spokesman said: “The majority of the £68,000 funding is economic development support for Melrose Sevens (£51,000 for the nine years for the freedom of information response) which, when you remove from the total, puts Melrose below Gala and Hawick.

“There has also been significant support for other clubs, such as Jedburgh, through the common good funds.”

The spokesman also pointed towards a statement given in May by Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, who acts as the council’s member for economic development.

He told a meeting of Scottish Borders Council on May 16: “The council would be absolutely delighted to support events anywhere in the Scottish Borders, which have the potential to generate the positive economic impact of Melrose Sevens, or the Borders Book Festival. However, it is simply the case that such events do not currently exist on the same scale.

“Scottish Borders Council has provided £232,000 of funding to the Borders Book Festival over the past nine years from its economic development events budget.

“From data available for eight of those years, the economic impact of the festival has been over £11.6million.

“There is a directly quantifiable return on the investment being made by the council and many others.

“During that time, the Borders Book Festival has also become one of the top three literary festivals in the UK, attracts a raft of household names, and has generated significant and varied media coverage for the Borders.

“During that same period, Melrose Sevens has received £59,000 of event development support.

“From the figures available, it has generated an average annual economic impact to the Scottish Borders of over £1.2m.

“The council’s events strategy and action plan is absolutely transparent in the way in which council funding is used to support the development of certain events over others and attract national and international events to the area, in the same way that funding for local festivals is equally explicit in the way that this is distributed to benefit communities across the Scottish Borders.

“I would invite anyone with an event or an idea for an event which has the potential to deliver economic benefits to the Scottish Borders to come forward and discuss their plans with myself and officers so we may explore potential funding opportunities.”

Scottish Borders Council has also funded three artificial surfaces over the last few years, including a new surface currently being installed at the Greenyards.

The council has chipped in £600,000 for the new pitch at Melrose and has contributed £1m and £520,000 for the artificial pitches at Volunteer Park, Hawick, and Netherdale Arena, Galashiels, respectively.

A Scottish Borders Council spokesman said: “The council has contributed a similar investment to other 3G community pitches in the Scottish Borders.

“These include the Volunteer Park 3G community pitch, the home of Hawick Linden and Hawick Wanderers rugby clubs, and Netherdale 3G Arena in Galashiels, which heavily involved local rugby clubs in the original concept and continues to see various age groups regularly use the facility.”