The Scottish Rugby Union ignored its own compliance guidelines when it awarded three of its Super 6 franchises to clubs in Edinburgh, The Scotsman has learned.
The announcement on Tuesday that Boroughmuir, Heriot’s and Watsonians were among the half-dozen clubs to be selected for the new semi-pro competition stirred up a hornet’s nest.
No clubs from Glasgow were selected, with the three Edinburgh sides being joined by Ayr, Melrose and Stirling County.
However, in the Franchise Information document sent to clubs ahead of the bidding process, the SRU pledged to select no more than two clubs from any one region.
Section 3.2 of the document is headed “Compliance with the Super 6 franchise model” and lists criteria by which bids will be judged by Scottish Rugby. In the closing paragraph, it states: “Scottish Rugby will select at least one applicant from each of the four regions of Scotland and not more than two in any region. Each successful applicant (including co-applicants where there is a syndicated application) will then be awarded a five- year franchise to become a member of the Super 6 Tournament.”
While you can argue that Ayr’s inclusion covers the need for a franchise in the wider “Glasgow region”, Murrayfield has ignored its pledge not to place more than two franchises in any one region, with Edinburgh boasting three while the biggest city in Scotland has none.
There has been an outcry from the rugby community in Glasgow that they are being ignored, with Glasgow Hawks being particularly vocal in their condemnation of the SRU’s decision to go with three clubs from the capital.
Hawks branded the move “irrational” and said it cast doubt on their future.
The new competition is due to begin in season 2019-20 and Scottish Rugby said it picked the six clubs on merit.
A spokesman for the SRU said: “The Franchise Information document was prepared as guidance on the overall process, long before any applications were submitted and before Scottish Rugby reached a concluded view on what the regional composition of Super 6 might look like.
“The selection of the successful franchises was based solely on the criteria evaluation set out by the Review Panel which had a remit to determine the strongest bids.
“Under the terms of the application process, Scottish Rugby Board had the final decision on which clubs were selected and Scottish Rugby believes it has selected the most robust applicants for the Super 6.”
It could be argued that the clubs were entitled to expect the SRU to adhere to it own compliance documents, just as Murrayfield would expect interested clubs to do the same.
Speaking at yesterday’s official Super 6 launch, SRU chief executive Mark Dodson said: “We did say that we wanted one [franchise] in each area and we have. The other two are in Edinburgh because they were the best bids. Would I have wanted a strong bid in Glasgow? I would, obviously. But you guys [the media] would have held us to account on this. So if we hadn’t chosen the best bids and used geography as a convenience but that franchise wasn’t strong enough to survive we would have been criticised for that.
“The truth of the matter is the Hawks bid was a very good one, a very smart bid but it wasn’t as good as the ones we have pushed through today. I feel their pain. I know this causes them a problem. It was always going to lead to a transition moment from not being a Super 6 franchise. We are there to help them, I have offered my help. We will meet with all the committees of clubs who weren’t successful to work with them.”
Despite the Glasgow outcry it is not certain that these revelations will change anything. Another line in the bid document asserts: “Scottish Rugby’s decision is final.”