Latest SRU Club Working Party Report

Sep 4, 2014
Category: General




  • Donald Macleod  

  • Ian Rankin  

  • Gordon Thomson  

  • Gerry Tosh  

  • Alex McQuade  

  • Dougie Belmore  

  • Colin Thomson  


Robert Howat and Nick Rennie attended the initial Scoping Meeting. To date the group has met on six occasions. Outline presentations have been given to the Premiership and National Forums.  


A separate meeting involving John Ryle of Collinson Grant, Colin Thomson and Donald Macleod took place on  

29th April.   




To review and develop  the proposed “Strategy for Working with Clubs” initiative and where considered necessary or appropriate, to consider and recommend alternative or additional steps that could be taken to achieve the stated objectives  




To raise the standard of Scottish club rugby to equivalent levels in the four Home Unions.  


To ensure a close working relationship between Premiership Clubs and Academies.  


To promote and support club sustainability and ensure clubs recognise their role in a community as a Small to Medium Business.  




The document has three sections after the Executive Summary and Introduction.  


  1. Introducing semi-professionalism;  

  1. Using membership data to better effect;  

  1. Changing the face of the club development service – Parts 1 and 2.   


The Working Party has addressed semi-professionalism, which directly applies to Premiership rugby, separately from the subsequent two sections which apply to the health of all Scottish rugby clubs.  




Introducing Semi-Professionalism – Key Findings  


  1. Premiership, National and Regional Clubs are central to developing players for the proposed Academies, age-grade representative rugby, club internationals, professional contracts and international caps.  


  1. The priority is to enhance the coaching and administrative structure of the Premiership clubs before introducing semi-professional players. Appropriate facilities may need to be developed.  This process should start in the immediate future.  


  1. Semi-professional players should come from within the Premiership club’s own playing strength in the first instance and secondly from Elite Development Players or Academy players who have not been offered a professional contract.  


  1. The current league structures should not be altered, retaining a ten team Premiership and 3 twelve team National Leagues.  


  1. A “mirror” Second XV league would be appropriate in the Premiership.  


  1. Automatic relegation and promotion for the bottom team in the Premiership and the winner of the National. The second bottom and second top teams should play-off.   


  1. Inter-district rugby should be restricted to the age-grade teams. A Schedule of games has been set for the U16, U18 and U20 levels for season 2014 – 15.  


  1. The Performance Advisory Forum should be established to link the Premiership club coaches with the Academy coaches, the Rugby Operations and the coaching support and game analysis services in the Performance Rugby Departments. The Rugby Operations Department is being restructured and will be replaced by a Domestic Rugby Directorate.  


  1. Cross-Border competition is supported but the current format needs further review. The Scottish Club Teams have been withdrawn from the B&I cup for season 2014/15 due to an unreasonable fixture schedule being put in place by the other participating Unions.  A series of 6 pro team back up games have been arranged in discussion with the Premiership forum. Cross Border competition will be looked at during the next season.  


  1. The Scottish National Cup should exclude the Premiership clubs from season 2015/16.  


  1. Player movement to Premiership clubs from lower leagues should be offered dual registration and monitored to ensure players are playing regular competitive rugby.  


  1. Premiership clubs should develop Scottish qualified players, referees and coaches.  


  1. Premiership clubs should have strong links to Youth and Schools rugby and support the development of Women and Girls rugby.  


  1. Clubs sit at the heart of player development, providing regular competitive rugby for Academy and Elite Development Players, linking with Schools of Rugby, Independent Schools and Higher Education.  


Membership Data – Key Findings  


  1. Collecting non-playing membership for all rugby clubs was supported to develop an accurate picture of the demographics of playing and non-playing members of rugby clubs.  


  1. Clubs may require assistance establishing and maintaining accurate records.  


  1. Clubs would own their data.  


  1. Data should only be used for improving communication between the SRU, clubs and their members.   


  1. Clubs would expect to see benefits arising from centralised data.  



Club Development – Key Findings  


  1. A “Model Club” structure identifying criteria supporting a club’s on and off-field sustainability relevant to the league[s] in which they play and community in which they function would be the basis for reintroducing Accreditation.  


  1. Clubs with realistic on and off field ambitions should be supported.  


  1. A clubs “Help Desk” with access restricted to office bearers would shorten lines of communication.  


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Based on the experience of the current Premiership, the Working Party does not believe and the Premiership Forum accepts that 2 or 3 part-time semi-professional players in Premiership rugby will “bridge the gap” highlighted by the British and Irish Cup [B&I Cup].  


The Working Party welcomes 2 or 3 semi-professional player joining Premiership clubs. These players should come from within the club’s own players or senior Academy / Elite Development Players [EDP] who have an established link with the relevant club but have not been offered professional contracts.   


Distribution of players between Premiership clubs should be equitable and acknowledge geographic spread based on the Academy districts.  


It should be noted that Academy players may be playing with National League clubs and not just in Premiership clubs. Premiership, National and Regional Clubs are central to developing players for the proposed Academies, age-grade representative rugby, club internationals, professional contracts and international caps.  


A Player Retention policy is essential for semi-professional, Elite Development and Academy players if their contracts are not renewed.  


The contracts of semi-professional players should be reviewed annually.  




The Working Party recommends that developing the professional standards of the Premiership clubs is fundamental to meeting the aims of the Strategy. Priorities include the following;  


  1. A full time paid head coach.  

  1. Increased coaching support from the Performance Rugby Department covering topics such as Specialist skills, Strength and Conditioning, Nutrition, Game Analysis, Game Management, Medical / Physiotherapy, Refereeing.  

  1. Funded part-time administrative support.  

  1. Access to an enhanced Facilities Trust Fund with charitable status.    

  1. Supporting Youth rugby in their club and community with links to Schools.  

  1. Helping to develop Women and Girls rugby in their community.  

  1. The winner and runner-up in the Premiership need recognition.  

  1. The Premiership clubs would be expected to submit an Annual Report and Audited Accounts at the end of the season.  




The Working Party recommends that the structure of the Premiership and three National Leagues are not currently changed but recognise the prospect of fixture congestion in the 12 team National Leagues.  


There is continuing debate regarding promotion and relegation between the Premiership and National 1. Realistic opportunities for promotion are essential. Automatic relegation of the bottom Premiership club and promotion of the winner of National 1 and a play-off between second bottom and second top is considered to give ambitious National League clubs a reasonable opportunity for promotion. No drafted full-time professional players should be involved in a play-off.  


Parachute payments for clubs demoted from the Premiership were not supported.  


Clubs promoted to the Premiership should be offered additional advice and support to meet the requirements of semi-professionalism as soon as promotion is assured  




 It will be easier to maintain geographic spread of Premiership clubs with a 10 team league.  




The Working Party recommend a mirror Second Fifteen League for Premiership clubs. Premiership clubs with third XV or lower teams would play in Reserve National, Regional or Social leagues.  




Any player moving from a lower to a Premiership club should be offered dual registration to ensure he plays regular competitive rugby. The Premiership coach would be responsible for monitoring a player’s progress and liaising with the club of origin coach.  


The current Player Reward scheme should be reviewed to assess whether clubs developing players for the Premiership and Academies can benefit.   




The Premiership should consider whether they wish to agree the number of Scottish Qualified players on their match First and Second XV team sheets. The actual numbers of non-qualified players in Premiership, National and Regional League rugby is attached. SRU funding should not directly or indirectly support non-qualified players.   




SRU funding should be reviewed if Premiership clubs fail to develop Scottish qualified coaches and referees.  




The Working Party recommends and emphasises the importance of a Performance Advisory Forum linking the SRU Performance and Operations Departments, the Academies, the Professional clubs coaches and the Premiership clubs.  





The Working Party recognises that Cross Border Competition is essential to raise standards. There is continuing debate about how best this can be achieved.  


NB: The withdrawal of Scottish clubs from the British & Irish Cup (B&I Cup) has superseded the preparation of this report.  The comments relating to the B&I Cup are no longer relevant.  


The top four clubs in the 2013 /14 Premiership competed for places in the British & Irish Cup [B&I cup] for Season 2014/15. During Season 2014/15 cross border competition should be reviewed.  


Consideration should be given to professional “back-up” teams playing in the B&I Cup with support from senior Academy, Sevens and Premiership club players. The top two Premiership clubs would be offered the remaining places, but only calling on their initially drafted professional, EDP and Academy players.   


The Premiership Forum opposed professional “back-up” teams in the B&I Cup.           




  1. Develop an alternative cross border competition with Celtic League clubs.   

  1. Consider playing in the European Qualifying Cup. This may be more appropriate for “back-up” professional teams, provided it did not affect premiership clubs.  




The Working Party recommends that Age-grade Inter-District rugby should be extended to include U20s, helping selection for the U20s 6 Nations and World Cup competitions.  


Developing Under 20s inter-district rugby should form part of a policy to enhance youth player retention in rugby. This must include University and College rugby as well as clubs.  


The role of Inter-District rugby involving club and senior Academy players designed to help the selection of the Club International team needs further consideration.   


The Working Party did not support four District teams playing in the 6 pool matches in the B&I Cup with appropriate warm-up matches, training sessions, and the possibility of proceeding to the play-off stages of the competition, would remove 100 or more club players and coaches from the club game for a minimum of 10 weeks. The standard of Premiership and National club rugby would be damaged.  


There is some support for senior Inter-District rugby but priority must lie with the League, National Cup, Playoffs and the B&I Cup.  












Premiership clubs would not play in the Scottish Cup from season 2015/16 which would reserved for the three National Leagues and the title changed to the Scottish National Cup.  


A play-off competition between the top Premiership clubs with a Grand Final would bring a fitting climax to the Premiership season.  


Regional Competitions would be unchanged.  




The Academy and Youth and Schools Implementation Working Parties will address this issue. Regular club rugby will be essential to ensure players do not fall between different areas of responsibility.   




The Working Party strongly recommends an immediate initiative directly addressing the loss of players from 16 up to 24 years. The initiative should involve Regional Development Managers (RDMs), Club Development Officers (CDOs) and coaches to clarify how best this problem can be addressed – following players who move location, for example from club of origin to university, to ensure they are picked up. It should involve the Regional Development Managers [RDMs] responsible for Universities and Colleges and Women and Girls rugby.  




The Working Party recommends that a charitable Facilities Trust with dedicated specialist support within the SRU is established to develop artificial pitches with appropriate facilities including floodlights which could be shared between local groups of clubs with priority initially given to Premiership clubs.  


Clubs which develop their own all-weather pitches should be encouraged to share the facilities with neighbouring clubs.  




The Working Party recognises the importance to Scottish Rugby of understanding the non-playing membership of all rugby clubs in addition to the number of registered players.  


It is important to recognise that it is often easier to attract supporters to matches than recruit members. Many clubs cannot record the number of supporters attending a match or other rugby event.  


The quality of information forwarded to Scottish Rugby’s Central Data Management System [CDMS] hinges on club staff. Any system must be simple and clubs see practical benefits. Clubs outwith the Premiership may need support to initiate the programme.  


The responsibility for data protection must be clearly defined.  


Clubs should own their database and delegate to CDMS those services it wishes to be managed centrally.  





The Working Party believes clubs would not want Scottish Rugby to share club data with Scottish Rugby’s sponsors or Government other than to release the total numbers of club members and their demographics.  


The data collected centrally should be used to promote club, Scottish Rugby and Professional matches, ticket sales and events.   


Linking twitter and Facebook between clubs and Scottish Rugby plus e-mail merge for clubs is an essential benefit of centrally collated membership details.  


Assistance with club websites and advertising in a local community is fundamental to success.  





Collating the total numbers of playing and non-playing members of Scottish club rugby will assist Scottish Rugby in negotiating group purchase benefits for clubs. Examples include purchase of:-  


  • Playing kit;   

  • Medical supplies;  

  • Clubhouse facilities;  Advertising in local press.  





Part 1  




Clubs find the current presentation and sources of core financial support complex to follow. The variable sources of funding of CDOs causes confusion. Clubs fear that increasing proportions of CDOs costs will rest with them if Scottish Rugby, Government or Local Authority funding is restricted. The different sources of funding and the Government’s support of School Sport suggests that sudden withdrawal of several sources of funding is unlikely.  


Clubs need help to access local authority funds, charitable trusts and lottery funds as well as advice about Community Amateur Sports Club [CASC] or charitable status.  


The current Player Reward policy should consider whether it can be extended to clubs and schools working in conjunction with Academies, helping the development of players.  




Establishing a “Help Desk” only available to club office bearers - President, Secretary, Treasurer and Director of Rugby - to contact would be beneficial.  




The Working Party supported bench-marking the Health of Clubs against agreed criteria for the league in which they play and their community, with reservations about how best and how often this could be undertaken.  


A “buddy system” between a healthy Premiership or National club working with Regional clubs in their community would strengthen local rugby.  


Similarly, Regional clubs working together and sharing infrastructure should be encouraged.  


The amalgamation of struggling clubs should be considered, with the initiative being taken by RDMs.  


Funding for Club Sustainability Workshops with mentoring should be expanded and follow-up appraisal established.  



 Part 2   




The Working Party supported the concept of agreeing the criteria for a Model Club as outlined in Appendix 4 and 5 of the Strategy Document [attachments].  


The Working Party was concerned that presenting and implementing the principles of a Model Club may prove to be very demanding on RDMs.  




The Working Party supported the  New Principles for Financial Support i.e. have a positive effect on a club’s sustainability, that the club’s on and off–field ambitions are realistic, meet the Scottish Rugby’s strategies to grow the game and are subject to a strategic appraisal of the clubs in their community.  


The proposed new principles should ensure that no Scottish Rugby funds or significant amounts of a club’s own funds are being spent on non-qualified and overseas players.  


The Working Party is disappointed that the above criteria will not apply to Regional clubs. Improving the quality and credibility of Regional clubs is essential to grow the game, strengthen links with schools and retain young players in the game.  




The Working Party supported the introduction of a voluntary quality assurance award for clubs, relevant to where the club sits in Scottish Rugby. Gold, silver and bronze awards should reflect progress toward, attainment of and maintenance of agreed standards.  


RDMs should work with clubs to help identify and achieve the agreed standards. The Awards should be assessed and presented by the Council or Board of Scottish Rugby.  


The range of skills to assist RDMs fulfil this role may require specialist assistance, some of which could be provided by volunteers from within club rugby.  





The Working Party supported a survey of the Heath of the Game, focussing initially on the Premiership and National clubs. Designing, gaining club support and undertaking such a survey will place significant demands on the Rugby Operations Department, RDMs and CDOs.  


A survey of the overall Health of the Game should involve all clubs, higher education and schools, both state and independent.  


The survey should include whether clubs have access to all-weather IRB approved rugby pitches.  





The Working Party recognises that any development will be subject to the availability of significant new money. Consideration should be given to approaching the initiatives in manageable sections. Priority should rest with developing the Premiership, the Academies and Player Retention.  




An audit of the coaching structure, playing strength, facilities, administrative support and business plans for on and off-field sustainability of the current season’s Premiership clubs and the promoted team from National 1 could be initiated in the immediate future. Each club will have different priorities for support to develop them to a suitable standard to develop semi-professional players.  




The Working Party congratulates Scottish Rugby for developing “A Strategy for Working with Clubs”.  


The Working Party recognises the urgency for implementing aspects of the Strategy relating to Premiership rugby. It recommends that time be made for detailed consultation with the Academies and Youth and Schools Working Groups, with the addition of Higher Education, to ensure a coherent structure is developed, linking with club rugby.  


The Working Party recommends that the principles finally agreed to support the development of Premiership rugby should be extended to National and Regional rugby.