Since yesterday’s announcement the focus has rightly been on the fact that Scotland’s biggest city Glasgow, and by far its most successful professional club, are without a Super 6 franchise. Edinburgh boast three, two of whom, Watsonians and Boroughmuir, are near neighbours in the leafy southern suburbs of the city.
The panel tasked with making these choices is privy to a host of data that was not made public so we need to step gingerly but, as we have just witnessed, Edinburgh/Glasgow is a hugely healthy rivalry at professional level and to start the series without a Glasgow franchise is very strange. The numerous Glasgow players worthy of a Super 6 contract are offered the unenviable choice of moving to the capital or commuting.
Even with Edinburgh enjoying some success this season Glasgow’s gates have been consistently twice their rivals numbers (stripping out the 1872 games). If approximately 3,750 fans watch Edinburgh every other week how many fans will the three capital franchises hope to attract... in a city where most fans already have a club allegiance?
Elsewhere the repercussions for those that didn’t make the cut will start biting. In fact they had already started because a week ago one Premier One coach said it was impossible to sign new players for next season because everyone was waiting to see who got the franchise before committing.
Glasgow Hawks’ very future looks doubtful unless there are plans to expand to a Super 8. A club like Currie, who boast some of the brightest talents in the club game, will soldier on but they will hemorrhage players in the run-up to the Super 6. Some of them may have been at Malleny for a season or two, some will have come right through the system. To say that Currie must be disappointed is to put it mildly. Few appreciate the work that goes on in running such a successful club with deep roots in the community, a healthy junior section and a combative first XV. You don’t need to be a Malleny life member to hope that that community club continues its good work.
And players are not the only asset that Currie will lose because Ben Cairns, pictured, is a promising young coach. I watched his Currie team dismantle Heriot’s at Oriam during the worst of our winter weather when they played with a fearlessness, pace and accuracy that blew the opposition away. If they had a little more power in the forwards they would have won something this season.
Other clubs will be a lot less distressed and a place like Edinburgh Accies might not notice the difference at all if it weren’t for the loss of a few apprentices. Given their catchment a lot of Accies players hold down good jobs and limited numbers will have an interest in playing “pro rugby” for pennies in the Super 6.
If you doubt that take a look at how Richmond Rugby Club operates in England’s Championship. The London Scots’ nearest rivals are an amateur club in a league that is otherwise almost entirely professional. Richmond pay their players but only a match fee of approximately £300 per game (plus a win bonus). Everyone at the West London club holds down a full-time job in addition to playing rugby and it works. Richmond finished ninth in the league with nine wins from 22 games… two places above the professionals of London Scottish.
There will be a slew of excellent players for whom Super 6 makes no sense. Those with good jobs. Those who are coming to the end of their careers. Those who play the sport principally for enjoyment. Those who simply can’t be bothered with the rigour and regimentation of a professional player’s life. The club that can target and attract these players may yet thrive in an amateur environment which will look very different.