Mark Dodson outlines plan for a third pro team for Scottish rugby

Mark Dodson believes enough quality players are being developed to justify the formation of a third professional rugby team in Scotland but the project is unlikely to come to fruition until the second half of the decade.

Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson believes there are enough quality players for a third pro team.  (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson believes there are enough quality players for a third pro team. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Dodson, the Scottish Rugby chief executive, sees a new pro side as part of the governing body’s next strategic plan. He would not be drawn on specifics but did mention Aberdeen as a potential base.

Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors have been Scotland’s only two pro sides since the Border Reivers were disbanded at the end of the 2006-07 season.

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It has meant the game has been concentrated in the central belt at professional level for the past 15 years, often to the detriment of the sport in areas such as Aberdeen and the Borders.

The Border Reivers pro team were disbanded at the end of the 2006-07 season. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS

By contrast, Ireland and Wales have persisted with four professional teams, with Ireland in particular benefiting from a robust provincial set-up.

Jim Malinder, Scottish Rugby’s performance director, has advocated a third pro side, believing it would make Scotland more competitive as a rugby nation but Dodson has warned that it must be financially viable and not come at the expense of the two existing teams who are both performing well in the United Rugby Championship.

“I think Jim Mallinder said this when he came in – that to be competitive we do need a third pro team,” Dodson said. “But there is a lot of complexity to that around where we play, access into the URC and the finances over a multi-year period that would allow that third team to thrive.

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“All those things at the moment, post-Covid, are problematic. But in principle, from a strategic point of view, it is something we would strive towards. I think we are creating enough players from our pipelines in Scotland and our SQ [Scottish-qualified] programme that would allow that to take place.

“What we've got to do is make sure that our current pro teams are competitive and at the top of the game first before we move on to that third notion.

“I would look at this as being something for between 2025 and 2030 to look at properly, unless an opportunity came up in the meantime.

“Everyone would welcome the ability to play a third pro team but I have to make sure we keep the game in Scotland safe and secure. We've done a huge amount of work to underpin the game for the next generation in Scotland in terms of where our cash position sits and overall how our finances are now very robust. I don’t want to put that into jeopardy.”

Asked about geographical options for a third pro team, Dodson said: “Aberdeen is one but to be honest until we get Glasgow and Edinburgh operating on a commercially sound footing ... you can see the strides we’ve been making in Edinburgh recently, and again we would have made more progress in Glasgow had it not been for Covid.

“We’re in a situation where we’re really concentrating on those two and making sure economically, we’re in the right place. The Dam Health Stadium has been massive for Edinburgh and we’re going to try to improve our status at Scotstoun as well, improving that stadium in terms of capacity.”

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