Clubs from the second-tier National League One, which includes the likes of Gala, Aberdeen Grammar, Kelso, Selkirk and Jed-Forest, presented a letter to the SRU’s Board and Council through their Council representative Colin Rigby last week, following a discussion at the league’s forum meeting earlier this month. Their main bone of contention is a lack of clarity on how the club league structure below the new part-time professional Super 6 will look from next season.
A consultation process on the impact of Super 6 and the union’s ‘Agenda 3’ programme on the future of the domestic game, which was demanded by club’s at August’s AGM, closes on Wednesday.
The second-tier clubs are believed to be concerned by a comment in the covering letter to the consultation questionnaire from SRU head of regulation Graham Ireland stating that, unless consensus is reached from the process, the league structure as it currently stands, including promotion and relegation, will remain, with the second XVs of the winning Super 6 franchises (Melrose, Ayr, Heriot’s, Stirling County, Boroughmuir and Watsonians) remaining in whatever position the clubs finish this season in.
This differs from the SRU’s original bid document, which suggested that the second XVs of these clubs would re-start in the second tier.
National League One clubs began the season believing that the top six in their division would move up to join the four clubs left from the Premiership - Hawick, Edinburgh Accies, Currie and Glasgow Hawks - in a new Championship top flight. It is the same document which the SRU claimed was “for guidance” only and which also stated that a maximum of two clubs from one region would be selected for Super 6. In the end, this was ignored and three clubs from Edinburgh were chosen.
The situation also presents issues for the likes of Accies and Hawick, who planned their 2018-19 seasons in the belief there would be no relegation from the top club division.
The cover letter from the SRU notes that a successful motion at this summer’s AGM amended the Bye-Laws so that any change to the format of the Premiership and National League must now be ratified by a general meeting of the SRU’s member clubs.
As it stands no formal agreements have been signed with any of the winning six franchises, although the SRU is believed to be confident that will be resolved soon. It is also understood that it remains the intention of the union to push on with Super 6 as planned next season.
The letter from the National League One clubs has been passed to the Standing Committee on Governance, chaired by Gavin McColl QC. It argues that if there is a possibility that there will be no change to the league structure then that should be imposed now and also lead to a postponement to Super 6, as part of the domestic game, in order to provide time for proper examination of knock-on effects such as the imposition of amateurism, or not, dual contracts and league structures.
It read: “The imposition of Agenda 3 including Super 6 by the Scottish Rugby Union on its member clubs at the 2017 SRU AGM, without proper prior consultation nor approval from the stakeholders, has led to a current situation which we, the National One clubs, deem to be unacceptable.
“Players currently playing in SRU administered competitions are unaware of what it is that they are playing for, which destroys the trust between our most important constituents, the players, and those driving the changes that are causing this impasse.”
It is understood that the National League One clubs’ preference is for the second XVs of Super 6 clubs to play in a separate reserve league.
The letter continued: “Considering [that] the full details of the Super 6 competition itself have still not been concluded, even to the satisfaction of those awarded the franchises, we believe that the only responsible course of action for the Scottish Rugby Union to take at this stage is to postpone Super 6 for a minimum of one season.
“This will therefore provide a renewed back-stop position that the leagues will continue as is for a minimum of one more season allowing time for the Gavin McColl governance review to be concluded and for any changes to the domestic league structure to be debated and approved by the member clubs before any impact of Super 6 is felt.
“Most importantly, this will give all clubs and players clarity on what it is that they are playing for this season even though this retrospective change is not in line with what many clubs expectations were prior to the season commencing.”