New regime plans semi-pro set-up for London Scottish

Former city financier Malcolm Offord is taking over as chairman of London Scottish. Picture: Martin Shields Herald and Times Group
Former city financier Malcolm Offord is taking over as chairman of London Scottish. Picture: Martin Shields Herald and Times Group
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London Scottish is set for 
radical change with former city financier Malcolm Offord taking over as chairman from Sir David Reid and implementing a plan for a semi-professional future.

It seems almost certain that the raft of new proposals will be adopted at a board meeting next Wednesday.

Reid has been a keen supporter of the Exiles over the years and has pumped several million pounds of his own money into the club.

However, the new regime are determined to live within their means and see the future as a semi-pro set-up with a mix of full-time, part-time and dual-registered players as well as young hopefuls farmed out from Murrayfield.

The changing of the guard will see the long-serving Rod Lynch step down from his dual role as president and chief executive, the latter he only took up two years ago after Kenny Baillie joined British Rowing.

Lynch oversaw the renaissance of the club after it had been shunted down the divisions following Monaco-based investor Tony Tiarks’ spell as owner after the club turned professional in 1996. When Tiarks bailed out three years later, the club was put in administration and cast into the rugby wilderness.

Having climbed the ranks from the bottom of the Middlesex leagues, the Exiles finished third in the Championship a couple of seasons back, making them the 15th best club in England. None of which would have been possible without Lynch, Reid and a host of others too numerous to mention.

Lynch has been president since 2001 and a loyal servant to the club. His dual role as president/chief executive will be split with former player Carson Russell taking on the chief executive role and, while the club’s new regime-in-waiting has an ex-Scotland international in mind, the new president must be approved by the popular vote of the club members at the summer AGM.

The club is talking to coaches about next season, so it seems likely the current coaching team of Sean Lineen and John Dalziel, on secondment from the SRU, will return to Scotland on a full-time basis this summer.

Whoever heads up the new coaching team will have their work cut out since, as things stand, the club have no players signed up on any basis, full or part time, for next season.

And, while denied by club officials, it is possible they will be forced to drop a division as they make the transition from fully professional to semi-pro.

Offord, pictured, was a handy centre at London Scottish during the 1990s and is understood to want the club to return to its former role as a social/cultural hub for Scots in south west London. However the club will remain reliant upon large numbers of Englishmen to fill the jersey on a Saturday afternoon if only because their most generous backer demands it.

The RFU pumped £560,000 into 
London Scottish last season (it will be closer to £600,000 next season) and, in order to qualify for this largesse, the Exiles need to average 16 English qualified 
players (EQPs) in their match-day 22-man squad each month.

Of course the Exiles can utilise those rules to their own advantage with players who are both Scottish and English qualified, which is obviously part of the plan.

The new regime will hope to continue to have the use of young Scots sent by Murrayfield to learn their trade but that may depend on maintaining their position in the second rung of English rugby.

Just months after London Welsh disappeared into receivership, it is undoubtedly good news that the London Scots are tightening their belt to suit these uncertain times; the club boasts something in the region of 160 backers but it had became overly reliant upon the generosity of one man – Reid – which was never sustainable in the long term.

The new regime insist that a semi-professional outfit can thrive in the English Championship and they may be right but money talks. Richmond Rugby, their flatmates in the Athletic Ground, achieved promotion into the Championship this season and hoped to stay there paying no more than weekly match fees.

They are currently anchored to the bottom of the table just below Rotherham Titans, although both clubs can breathe easy for now. The sad demise of London Welsh has negated the need for relegation, at least for this season.