Club chiefs to discuss plan for new semi-professional league

Selkirk Rugby Club president Rob Forrest.
Selkirk Rugby Club president Rob Forrest.

Scottish club rugby is bracing itself for radical change, with growing speculation of a six-team semi-professional competition possibly becoming a reality.

This Saturday sees clubs across Scotland head to BT Murrayfield Stadium to join their SRU counterparts for an annual general meeting, to discuss a number of topics relating to the club game in Scotland.

But the one gaining most interest is the reported proposal of a six-team semi-professional league.

SRU chief executive Mark Dodson is set to unveil a proposal that will see six unnamed teams be offered the chance to become franchises and be installed into a new semi-professional league.

Each team is reported to be receiving £100,000 annually over five years, totalling £3 million, with additional finances coming from club-generated sponsorships, gate receipts and merchandise sales.

The new semi-professional league proposal will be presented to club representatives at Saturday’s AGM, but there is no vote planned for possible new league.

Club council members have suggested, however, that the SRU might not actually need a vote to proceed with the formation of the new league.

Sources have indicated that Scottish Rugby by-laws concerning the control of fixtures, league and cup competitions have been changed to allow the SRU to alter the structures without the consent of the member clubs.

There is no information regarding which clubs will put themselves forward – but sources close to the proposal suggest the SRU is keen to secure one club from each of Glasgow, Edinburgh, the Borders and the North and Caledonia, with a further two coming from elsewhere.

“My view is that if there are a few clubs who think they want to become semi-professional and have shown they can sustain it, then I do not have a problem with it, really,” said Robert Forrest, president of BT National League Division One side Selkirk, adding these were his own personal views and not necessarily those of his club.

“They can go off and play in a different league and leave the rest of us to play top level amateur rugby in Scotland.”

The news of a possible six-team semi-professional league is not a new concept – the SRU put forward a similar idea in 2012.

The proposal then was for an eight-team league which was set to be made up of teams who finished that league year in the top eight of the Premiership and would be awarded similar investment over a five-year period.

The SRU hopes the new league will be running for the 2018-19 season.