There will be no Aberdeen franchise when club rugby’s new Super 6 league launches the season after next.
Once seen as the great untapped territory of Scottish rugby, and occasionally mooted as the potential location for a third pro team, there will be no bid from the Granite City to take part in the new part-time professional set-up.
The deadline for applications is 5pm tomorrow.
Super 6 is the SRU Board’s plan to revamp the club structure in an attempt to provide a bridge between the top of the club game and the professional arena, with strictly amateur status below the new league.
There is a stipulation that four of the franchises must come from the four district areas – Glasgow and the west, Edinburgh, Borders and Caledonia – and it will now be down to bids from Dundee and Stirling to fill the most northerly slot in the set-up.
A spokesperson for Aberdeen Grammar, the city’s leading club told The Scotsman that discussions between local clubs, businesses and higher education facilities had led to the conclusion that a bid would not be feasible.
He said: “We were keen to see if we could come up with something and five years ago would have been in a strong position but with the way the economy has gone in the north-east, the decline of the oil industry, we just couldn’t make the numbers add up. We have lost a significant amount of sponsorship over the past few years.”
The spokesperson said the position could be revisited in a few seasons if there are moves to expand Super 6.
The winning franchises will receive a £62,500 investment from the union to fund part-time player salaries for a squad of around 35, a further £75,000 to pay for a head coach and support staff, with the franchise to match at least the £62,500 input per year. There would be a £12,000 cap on an individual’s annual salary.
SRU chief executive Mark Dodson has come under fire from some quarters for the Super 6 plan, with fears about what will become of leading clubs who are left out of the new tier, but there is also positivity from clubs who have already or will submit bids before tomorrow.
A source involved with the Glasgow Hawks application told The Scotsman that initial scepticism had given way to enthusiasm and said: “This is getting back to what Hawks were created for 20 years ago as an ambitious club before the district pro teams came in.”
Melrose and Ayr, the most successful clubs of the past few seasons, are viewed as frontrunners in the bidding process, which leaves Edinburgh as the most complex scenario in the process.
Heriot’s, Watsonians, Boroughmuir, Currie and Edinburgh Accies, in association with Edinburgh University, are all expected to apply for what would likely be a maximum of two slots for the capital.
The SRU is expected to issue a statement shortly after the 5pm deadline tomorrow before a month-long assessment period. The six franchises who will compete in the league, which is hoped to run alongside a cross-border competition, are due to be announced on 1 May.