THE long-running saga of one man's efforts to invest in Scottish rugby seems finally to have drawn to a close. Graham Burgess, the Aberdonian oilman who had hoped to take the rump of the Borders to Stirling, has conceded defeat.
He was supposed to meet SRU officials last week, but the appointment was cancelled by Murrayfield, and instead he received a letter from union chairman Allan Munro. It thanked Burgess for his interest, but indicated that they believed that time pressures meant that his plan would have to be shelved for a year. The union had issues about the level of funding that the Burgess consortium would provide, and also about the number of top-level Scots that were still available to sign.
Burgess admitted that his side would be makeshift, if only in the first year, but he has always insisted that his group would provide whatever funds were necessary to make the team competitive.
Surprisingly, the consortium of Burgess, Roy Carver and two London-based businessmen, Gerald Porter and Greg Knight, were willing to go ahead without any SRU subsidy, asking only for one-third of the ERC and Magners money. Any additional central funding would come only in return for individual player release.
Only a few months ago, the likes of Frank Hadden were vehemently arguing the necessity of maintaining three professional teams, or risk seeing Scotland drop out of the world's elite. With the Borders dead and buried, it seems surprising that more effort was not made to come to some agreement with Burgess's group. American millionaire Carver considers that the SRU did not take them seriously.
"I don't believe the SRU were interested in ever doing a deal and having a franchise in Stirling", he said. "They announced they were backing the Glasgow franchise themselves, and having another pro-team competing with them nearby probably wasn't what they were interested in. Who knows, it wouldn't surprise me if a few years down the road, the Glasgow team ends up at our proposed site in Stirling."
Another frustrated investor, Greg Knight, who runs the financial services company the Welbeck Group, voiced similar misgivings. "I was astounded by the whole process. They questioned our ability to finance the venture, which is fine when you are going into partnership with someone, but if they had asked us, we would have jumped on the first plane to Murrayfield with proof. What do they want, my bank statements?
"I think the whole thing is very sad. I am a Scottish rugby fan, and to my mind three teams are better than two, but I am not sure that the SRU agree."
No-one will be trampled in the rush of investors looking to throw money at Scottish rugby right now. Gordon McKie's views on Burgess's bid may have been coloured by his less-than- amicable relationship with Edinburgh boss Bob Carruthers, but it was a brave step for the chief executive to dismiss the only offer of outside investment currently on the table.