As predicted by a number of observers in the game, Scottish Rugby unveiled a new strategy and league structure for all rugby clubs in Scotland, when it held its annual general meeting last Saturday at BT Murrayfield.
A new top tier of the domestic game will be created for the 2019-20 season, entitled ‘Super Six’, which will be semi-professional and work to close the gap between the club game and professional teams in Scotland.
The move is being backed with £3.6m of new Scottish Rugby investment over five years, reaching every club in Scotland.
All the Super Six teams will be overseen by Scottish Rugby’s High Performance department, which will allocate funding for head coaches, strength and conditioning, and analysis support.
Funding costs for squads of 35 players will be split between Scottish Rugby and the clubs, with teams playing a 20-match season.
A new ‘Scottish Championship’ of 12 teams will be created beneath Super Six, alongside a new three-division National League structure, all of which will contain wholly amateur teams.
With franchises in the Super Six running for five years at a time, teams in the Scottish Championship and National Leagues can build stronger community ties and focus investment on developing their clubs in the absence of player payments.
Clubs can apply to join the Super Six tier and will be required to bring their own investment to the table to complement Scottish Rugby’s financial support.
The teams will be geographically aligned with Scottish Rugby’s four regions Caledonia, Glasgow & the West, Edinburgh & the East and The Borders, with two floating teams, and partnered with one of Scotland’s two professional teams, either Glasgow Warriors or Edinburgh Rugby.
The National Leagues will be feeder clubs for Super Six teams in their region to ensure an upward flow of talent through the leagues to the top tiers.
Mark Dodson, Scottish Rugby’s chief executive, said: “It is a new beginning for our whole sport, not just the top clubs. It resets the ambitions of everybody and offers every club a fresh start.”
“For the first time since the game went professional, this strategy involves all the clubs in the success of our national team.
“We want to create strong, sustainable clubs that can play at the level which best suits them and that they can choose.
“We wanted to create clear pathways for players, coaches and officials, alongside closing the gap between our domestic game and the professional teams, so we can maximise the resources we have and allow talented players to develop in good environments and fulfil their potential.
“We want to see clubs invest in their infrastructures and future growth so the National Leagues will have amateur status and the Super Six will be where player payments make better sense.
“This is not a radical plan, it is simply overdue, and we look forward to working with all the clubs in Scotland to deliver this new structure for the wider benefit of the game at large.”
Rob Flockhart, president of Scottish Rugby, said: “Over the past two years, we have been asked by clubs, at all levels, to find solutions for the reccurring issues in our game.
“We have listened to that and I believe we have put forward a very exciting proposal which will positively impact every club in Scotland.
“I promised at the outset I would review our domestic game and, with the excellent support of the executives, the Board and Council, I believe we now have a clear pathway to follow for the years to come and I look forward to seeing the plan progress.”
Scottish Rugby also unveiled a new-look Exiles programme at its AAGM. A new Scottish Qualified (SQ) programme was announced, which has a scouting network in place both in the UK and five other international rugby markets.
Wider player development will be complemented with performance links to London Scottish, Lille Metropole, Stade Nicois, North Harbour, Western Force and Stellenbosch Academy, it was stated.